Social Distancing Hasn’t Gone Away, You Know…

The Health Minister comes across as an extremely likeable fellow. Standing atop his podium, like an experienced but weary plumber, the civil and utterly decent Robin Swann is ever ready to plug any leaks in the flow of public compliance and adherence to Covid-19 guidelines.

Despite having his feathers ruffled at the beginning of April, Swann took a dignified stance yesterday and opted not to weigh in with his own personal criticism of a certain someone’s attendance at a certain funeral in west Belfast. Instead, he wielded his spanner broadly, taking reproachful swipes at the wider Sinn Féin line-up. The things one must do to keep the whole damned show flowing along nicely!

The DFM took a gamble by attending the funeral. The disdain coming from those who’ve shielded, sacrificed and refrained from being with their own dear friends and family members in the same situation is particularly distinct. And yet, for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem potent enough for us to indulge any unrealistic talk of a resignation. While she’ll lose a lot of the credibility gained from those unifying appearances with Arlene Foster that we’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks, Michelle O’Neill won’t go bust. With the annual Twelfth celebrations (digital or otherwise!) on the horizon there will be enough column inches produced there to provide cover.

Let’s face it – most of us have probably, and knowingly, broken social distancing measures at least once, even if you set out to be well meaning. It’s wrong, but you feel like a wee rebel afterwards. And God knows, there were plenty of rebels in Andersonstown on Tuesday.

Jim Allister keenly pointed that out, but his usual acerbic bluster was lacking. Hey, we’ve all been out of practice these past few months.

Others, meanwhile, have been behaving faultlessly when it comes to distancing measures: the Union Flags fluttering directly outside Dundrum GAA pitch, for example, have been impeccably spaced and separated.

I think, even amid the early Covid-19 panic and general wildness, there was a feeling that the virus would have settled down somewhat before the Twelfth celebrations. And it has, to an extent. Of course, the Orange Order was absolutely correct in calling for its digital transposition this year, regardless of the path of the crisis.

But now that Sinn Féin has put on a very public display of the heart ruling the head, how likely is it that the Dominic Cummings effect will trigger those who are keen to march on the Twelfth? Scores of applications to the Parades Commission have already been made and, to be fair, who could blame the bandsmen and women across the country for wanting to march and play, when everyone else seems to be Swanning around like Susie in the summertime?

The criticism flying Sinn Fein’s way yesterday was very much of the “Do as I say but not as I do!” variety.

Although we’re all hypocrites, aren’t we? Even those in positions of influence.

Except for Robin Swann, though. He’s no drip. But he’ll have his work cut out for him as we ease further out of lockdown and turn the tap back on.

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