NI weekly papers: 2020 vision and the cat who saved Christmas

Spuds the unsociable cat saved his owner's family from a house fire

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Newry Reporter

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Spuds the “unsociable” cat saved his owner’s family from a house fire in Newry

As a new decade dawns, Northern Ireland’s weekly papers have been brightened up by a tale of feline fortitude and 20th birthday celebrations for our first 21st Century citizen.

We begin in Newry, County Down, where a “hero cat” called Spuds saved Christmas, and its owner’s family, by alerting them to an overnight house fire.

Pet owner Brendan Curran tells the Newry Reporter he was asleep in bed when Spuds jumped on his chest to wake him at about 05:00 GMT.

He fell back asleep, but Spuds jumped on him again and when he “grumpily” got up to put the cat outside, he found his kitchen filled with smoke.

The former councillor says Spuds is “not a very friendly, social cat” so climbing on top of him was very uncharacteristic.

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Newry Reporter

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Spuds overcame his natural reserve to pose for this photo with owner Brendan Curran

“He doesn’t do people, doesn’t like being petted and it’s very rare he would even come near you,” Mr Curran explains.

Six people, including a new-born baby were sleeping in the house at the time so the cat was rewarded with “extra turkey and ham” on Christmas Day but, thankfully, no roast Spuds.

Street attack

The Reporter’s lead story is a city centre attack which left Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) player Caolan Mooney in hospital.

It says the Down senior footballer’s brother, Patrick, was also injured in the incident on Merchant’s Quay on 30 December.

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Newry Reporter

Its been a difficult start to winter for Northern Ireland’s hospitals, particularly those in the Western Health Trust area.

The Fermanagh Herald reports all “non-urgent” surgery has been postponed in its hospitals until February 2020.

A trust spokesman said it was due to “increasing demand within unscheduled care” but insisted emergency surgery was not affected.

The Herald leads with “shock and heartbreak” over the death of a five-year-old boy from Derrylin.

Oisin McGovern died three days after Christmas following a “short illness”.

The paper say his death has devastated his family, school and local GAA club.

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Fermanagh Herald

‘Caught out’

The Larne Times reports that many “unsuspecting motorists” have been hit with parking fines after charges were introduced at a retail park in the town.

Parking used to be free at Laharna retail park but in October, private firm Smart Parking began operating a new camera system to combat “high levels of parking abuse”.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs says he has been contacted by a number of motorists facing £60 fines after being “caught out” by the changes.

Smart Parking says it installed 26 signs across the site explaining the new rules but urged anyone who feels they were charged “incorrectly” to contact them.

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Larne Times

The Times also reports on a minute of madness on the railway after a girl jumped off a platform and ran across two train tracks “to see friends” on the opposite platform.

Police officers were on board an oncoming train and said their driver had to brake heavily after spotting the girl on the line in Clipperstown, Carrickfergus.

“It would have taken less than a minute for her to walk up the steps and over the bridge to see her friends safely,” a police spokesperson said.

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PSNI Carrickfergus

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Police in Carrickfergus described the track trespassing incident as “unbelievable”

A Stormont veteran is making a political comeback in the Ulster Gazette.

Danny Kennedy, a former minister who lost his seat in the 2017 assembly election, was recently elected chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The paper says party members are “hoping he will play a major part in the reviving their fortunes”.

Mr Kennedy says it is a “huge honour” to serve the party he joined when he was 16, adding those who are “writing the obituary of the Ulster Unionist Party are mistaken”.

The Gazette leads with new statistics showing domestic abuse reports are continuing to rise in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) Council area.

The paper says the ABC district is “second only to Belfast for domestic abuse crimes”.

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Ulster Gazette

In County Londonderry, an Aghadowey’s man’s incredible journey back to fitness has resulted in an award nomination.

Brian McCloskey once weighed in at 26 stone (165kg), but over the past five years he has shed 10 stone and last year completed the Belfast Marathon.

He blogs about his journey on his Facebook page 26 stone to 26 miles in the hope of inspiring others struggling with their weight.

The Coleraine Chronicle reports Mr McCloskey has been nominated for Spirit of Running’s “most inspirational male runner” award.

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Brian McCloskey

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Marathon man Brian McCloskey pictured before and after he took up running

Its lead story is the New Year Honours list, which included the woman who oversaw the staging of one of the world’s biggest sports events – golf’s Open Championship – in Portrush.

The paper says Wilma Erskine worked at Royal Portrush Golf Club for more than 30 years where she was simply known as “the boss”.

She now adds OBE to that title, having been honoured for services to tourism.

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Coleraine Chronicle

The Strabane Chronicle leads with an “outpouring of grief” for a family bereaved by a third sudden death within four years.

Liam Diver, who was 18, died on 30 December in the same hospital where his sister died by suicide in 2015.

Their body of their uncle, Sean Diver, was pulled form the River Foyle in 2016.

Councillor Raymond Barr tells the paper: “Mental health is the biggest issue facing the young in our society and more needs to be done to deal with this problem.”

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Strabane Chronicle

The paper’s front page also features a photo of Northern Ireland’s first 21st Century citizen, Órán Doherty, who was born one minute after midnight at the turn of the new millennium.

That means of course he celebrated his 20th birthday this week – where does the time go?

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Strabane Chronicle

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Millennium baby Órán Doherty has just turned 20

The paper goes back in time to revisit its coverage of his birth, which very nearly made the national press as, at one point, it appeared he would hold the title of the UK’s first millennium baby.

However, he was “pipped at the post” by a Londoner born at 11 seconds past midnight.

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