Paper Review: Teenage pigeon fancier, Translink woes

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Landing of racing pigeon with wigs spread wide - stock photoImage source, Getty/Frank Cornelissen

All Thursday's papers lead with a tragic road accident in County Antrim: "Two dead after horror collision," headlines The Belfast Telegraph.

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey tells the Belfast Telegraph the accident has "plunged families into sadness".

Also on the front pages - the proud face of a girl with an unusual hobby.

It may not be seen as a traditional teenage pastime but 15-year-old Kellie Wright from Magheralin in County Down is breaking the mould with her passion for pigeon fancying.

Last month she was named UK Young Pigeon Fancier of the year and now she has a "beak time TV slot" - puns the Irish News.

The paper shows her in the pigeon loft surrounded by some of her 200 birds.

She will feature in a documentary "My Life: Pigeons and Me," on CBBC next Tuesday.

'Glued to the skies'

The Belfast Telegraph says she is "flying high".

"I can remember going along to pigeon club with my dad and granddad when I was four years of age with a big bag of sweets," she says.

Kellie become the youngest and first female member of the Lurgan Social Homing Pigeon Society when she was 10.

Se explains that the hobby is a "real commitment, especially in racing season".

When spring arrives she'll spend her Friday nights getting the birds ready for a race.

By Saturday she will be "glued to the skies" watching for them coming back.

There is a bit of in-family rivalry to see whose birds come back first - "Whoever loses has to make the tea," she tells the paper.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Translink runs public bus and train services, including Belfast's Glider buses

The woes of Translink get top billing in the News Letter - the paper reports that public transport in NI is on "the brink of imminent and serious collapse".

The "crisis" facing bus and rail services was revealed during a Department for Infrastructure Stormont committee, when it emerged that Translink is facing a budget shortfall of £29m.

Civil servant John McGrath told MLAs that the scale of the budget crisis means "the continued viability of the public transport network is in jeopardy".

UUP MLA Roy Beggs asked what it would take to balance the books but Mr McGrath said Translink has drained its reserves and is "running out of options".

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon says her department was affected by budget pressures but she is working to find a solution.


Delving into the papers and there's a startling headline in the Belfast Telegraph: "NI potholes deeper than the Channel".

The paper reports that the combined depth of every pothole in Northern Ireland equates to 1,338m (4389ft) - almost eight times the depth of the English Channel.

The figures come from a website study.

We hear that on Wednesday a pothole which has been "refilled multiple times," reappeared on the Crumlin Road.

Councillor Dale Pankhurst says the patch always opens up and he claims there may be a "structural issue".

The paper says it is "understood to be part of a woman's leg" and that DNA tests are being carried out.

Sinn Féin councillor John Shéamus O Fearraigh said people in the area had been "shocked".

Image source, Getty/Roman Didkivskyi

'You don't feel a free society anymore'

The News Letter reports that the late Ian Paisley's son has warned that protections for those who "wish not to participate in gay weddings must be extended beyond churches".

Earlier in the week, the paper had reported that businesses will be unable to refuse same-sex wedding couples while clergy will get an "opt-out clause" over ceremonies in NI.

But Rev Kyle Paisley, who now lives in Lowestoft in England, says he would like to see this go further.

"Once you start down that road - chipping away freedoms here, there and everywhere, you don't feel a free society anymore," he says.

He also believes churches will lose any opt-out clause.

"My own view of it is eventually they'll be compelled forced to do gay marriages," he says.

The NIO said: "Service providers are required to comply with the relevant quality laws in NI. Registrars and service providers are treated in the same way in NI as the rest of the UK."