The Week in Review

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The Independent Online
THE DEATHS of two children in Warrington at the hands of the IRA cast a shadow over the week's news, which lengthened with the death of four sixth-formers in a canoeing accident off the coast of Dorset.

Two bombs in a shopping centre at the weekend had claimed the life of Johnathan Ball, three, immediately. He had been choosing a Mothering Sunday present. A life-support system sustained Tim Parry, 12, until Thursday, when he died of head injuries without regaining consciousness. The IRA, which had warned of a bomb in Liverpool that proved non-existent, blamed police for failing to evacuate the area.

Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister, wrote a moving message to the bereaved parents in the Independent. He wrote: 'The real Ireland is walking in spirit behind the coffins of your sons.'

The four sixth-formers died in a canoeing accident in icy seas after setting out on a three-mile paddle along the coast from Lyme Regis to Charmouth. Questions were raised about the wisdom of such an exercise so early in the year, and about the degree of supervision.

Six months of deliberation over the fate of 31 pits threatened with closure ended with a possible reprieve for only 13 of them, but a key aim of the exercise, to get people used to the idea, seemed to have been achieved, and a threatened Conservative backbench rebellion was defused. Ten pits not even reviewed will close as planned. Two of the 21 pits in the review are to shut, six more be put on 'care and maintenance' and one possibly developed as a low-cost mine. A dozen will continue, but with no guarantees for how long.

More than 8,000 miners have taken redundancy since the closure announcement in October, and another 5,800 will have to go, British Coal estimates.

Another industry in trouble was deep-sea fishing, where talks between fishermen's leaders and the Government failed to resolve the crisis for the industry brought on by a glut of cheap Russian imports and restrictive EC quotas. English and Welsh trawlers have already staged blockades of ports, and the campaign threatens to spread to Scotland.

There was further disturbing evidence of growing juvenile crime when, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind, a 13-year-old boy in Southwark allegedly raped a teacher while another 14-year-old held her down. A 13-year-old is held legally to be incapable of rape. The school where the alleged attack took place is to install pounds 20,000 security cameras.

Smokers were outraged when British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering recommended that the 1,000 babies available for adoption each year should only go to couples who will not subject them to the dangers of passive smoking.

Broadcasting and press freedom was in the news on several counts. Following a five-month inquiry, the all-party National Heritage Select Committee recommended the appointment of an official ombudsman, empowered to fine and demand compensation from newspapers as part of tough new measures to regulate the press.

Red Hot TV, the pornographic satellite television channel, was given leave to challenge a proposed government ban in the High Court, while Bartle Bogle Hegarty won the pounds 10,000 prize for the best advertisement in a national newspaper for suggestive photographs of couples engaged in acts involving Haagen- Dazs ice cream.

And following abortive negotiations between her financial adviser John Bryan and Harpers and Queen, the Duchess of York went down market and gave an exclusive, Hello]-style interview to the Sun, for which she was not paid. She revealed she had been so moved by the plight of Bosnian children that she had sent them three crates of Harrods' teddy bears.

Similarly fallen on (relatively) hard times, the former Conservative MP Sir Edward Du Cann, who once said he could not live on the pounds 75-a- week pay of a junior minister, is apparently struggling, 20 years later, to make ends meet on directors' salaries of up to pounds 1m a year. He now has a bankruptcy order against him.

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