Two events in recent days have cemented the return to normal life in Northern Ireland amid a diminished coronavirus.
The rock star Ed Sheeran has been playing to crowds of tens of thousands of people in Boucher playing fields in Belfast. Sheeran is one of the best-selling musicians in pop history, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.
Meanwhile, up to 100,000 people have been enjoying the Balmoral Show at the old Maze site, Co Down.
Both events have reflected a human yearning for normality and social gathering after long spells of lockdown.
The years can seem to roll by quickly, yet it seems quite a while since there was a traditional May Balmoral Show — in fact it is only three years since the May 2019 one.
It has been an eventful and often traumatic three years of anxiety caused by the pandemic. Balmoral was cancelled altogether in 2020, then last year it was held in the autumn. While that show was a relative success, it had an unusual feel, just before winter rather than summer.
This week’s Balmoral has not only had the sense of the late spring optimism and buzz that tends to accompany outdoor events at this point in the calendar, it has had the added frisson that comes with the let-up in restrictions.
Today is the last day of one of the biggest agrifood events on these islands. People of all ages have flocked to Balmoral Park to savour it, as we show on this Weekend paper.
• Other commentary:
• Editorial May 14: Crowds of all ages flock to Balmoral to savour a normal show
• Nigel Dodds May 13: Reg Empey is attacking other unionists when voters want a united approach
• Samuel Morrison May 13: The TUV got 8% of the vote in Northern Ireland and can no longer be ignored
• Editorial May 13: The NIO has been right to send a minister to US amid American pressure on UK
• Lord Empey May 12: The DUP have no-one to blame but themselves for disastrous election
• Editorial May 12: Any elaborate legacy system is likely to turn against the state
• Peter Robinson May 11: Ignore those who are urging DUP to just go back into Stormont
• John Cushnahan May 11: SF hypocrisy to attack DUP leader over MP seat while boycotting Westminster
• Editorial May 11: Liz Truss hints at action on NI Protocol but unionists are right to be wary
• Editorial May 10: If Irish language gets pledge today so must an overhaul of protocol
• Editorial May 9: It is clear that unionists need to have option of voting for a liberal party
• Editorial May 7: Unionism more than ever needs London’s help on the protocol