NI newspaper review: Arts funding package and unmasked Wilson’s tube photo

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Funding for NI’s arts sector was signed off by ministers as part of a wider £165m financial package on Thursday

Reaction to funding for Northern Ireland’s arts sector and a maskless Sammy Wilson loom large on Northern Ireland newspaper front pages on Friday.

The Irish News says a £165m financial package signed off by Stormont ministers will include money for “the beleaguered arts sector as well as a ‘Holiday at Home’ voucher scheme”.

The announcement that £29m is being released for “cultural recovery” has been welcomed by arts groups who have been hit hard by Covid restrictions, it says.

An image of DUP MP Mr Wilson not wearing a face mask on the tube in London gets wider coverage in the Belfast Telegraph and News Letter.

DUP leader Arlene Foster on Thursday denied she was a weak leader after being challenged over disciplining Mr Wilson, reports The Belfast Telegraph.

“I am not a weak leader, I am a leader that is leading this country through a very difficult time in terms of Covid, in terms of the challenges around leaving the European Union, as well as all of the other things we need to focus on,” she said.

Mr Wilson is quoted in the News Letter as saying he “should have had it (the mask) on (and) am offering no excuse”.

However, in a statement he added that it was “sad that we have now become like East Germany under the Stasi where members of the public think it is acceptable to ask as snoops”.

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News Letter

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Front page of the News Letter on Friday

The Belfast Telegraph also features an article from the daughter of an 82-year-old man who lay on the floor for six hours waiting for an ambulance after suffering a fall.

Anne Madden says her father Tom is in a Belfast nursing home receiving palliative care for bone cancer and dementia and it was a “heart-wrenching sight” to find him moaning in pain.

A Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesperson apologised for the wait, and said responses are based according to clinical priority.

The paper also reports that Prince Andrew took a £15,848 chartered flight to Northern Ireland “at the taxpayers’ expense” to attend the Open golf championship at Royal Portrush in July 2019.

The details were revealed in royal accounts.

A royal source has defended the Duke of York’s use of the charter flight which it said was “the only way to get him to complete his engagements to fit in with his other programmes”.

The News Letter on its front page says about 700 clerics from across the UK have written to the prime minister with regard to coronavirus restrictions, warning that churches must not be closed again.

It says Rev David Johnston, a retired Presbyterian minister from Bangor, County Down, is one of five clergy representatives who drafted the letter.

The letter says church leaders are “troubled by policies which prioritise bare existence at the expense of those things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life”.

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Belfast Royal Academy has sent an entire year group home after a positive Covid-19 case

Elsewhere, the Irish News reports on the increasing challenges for schools over coronavirus.

It says the first school in Northern Ireland to make face coverings mandatory, Belfast Royal Academy, has sent an entire year group home after a positive Covid-19 case.

The precautionary move affects about 200 pupils at the school.

Almost 200 pupils at two schools in Cookstown, County Tyrone, were sent home on Thursday following separate positive Covid-19 tests linked to Holy Trinity College and Holy Trinity primary schools.

BBC News