There was a justified outpouring of joy at the return of Rangers, marred by the scenes of large crowds breaching social distancing

News letter editorial of Tuesday March 9 2021:

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 9:00 am
News Letter editorial

Rangers retaking the Scottish premiership title on Sunday was a thrilling return to glory.

Only eight years ago the historic Glasgow football club was languishing at the bottom of Scottish soccer in the aftermath of their financial collapse. It took several years for them to return to the top flight in Scotland, and face their old rivals Celtic.

An outpouring of joy at this re-scaling of the premiership heights happened on both sides of the Irish Sea on Sunday night. Regrettably this led to flagrant breaches of Covid-19 social distancing regulations in Belfast and in Glasgow.

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Celebratory crowds gathered on the Shankill Road and at Ibrox Park. In Scotland the deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham called the behaviour of supporters as “disgraceful”.

In Belfast, Superintendent Nigel Henry said “The numbers involved in the scenes last night were clearly a breach [of Covid regulations] ... which is so disappointing when we know so many other people are adhering to the regulations”.

Superintendent Henry is certainly right about that.

Unfortunately, there is a crowd impulse that if you feel strongly enough about something, the rules don’t apply.

This was apparent in Black Lives Matter protests around the UK, in the spontaneous celebrations across the US when President Biden was elected, and at sporting victories such as Liverpool winning the English Premier League last year.

In a way, though, it is surprising that after a year of restrictions, there has not been greater defiance of crowd limits.

But succumbing to that temptation it is not only wrong, but troubling given the marked success of the vaccine programme. We could be so close to normality and need to be prudent so we can get pupils back fully in school and businesses back to normal trading.

Comparisons have been made with the Bobby Storey funeral but that was calculated, massive in scale and had NI’s deputy first minister presiding over it.

That Ms O’Neill has been unapologetic and can still tell us all what we can and cannot do, and that the PSNI and Belfast City Council gave special treatment to that huge terrorist funeral,is an ongoing sore in society.

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Alistair Bushe

Editor