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Police in the North probe large Rangers gatherings on Shankill Road

The Scottish First Minister said that crowds gathering in such a manner could delay the region’s exit from lockdown.

One of the scenes in Glasgow yesterday.
One of the scenes in Glasgow yesterday.
Image: Jane Barlow/PA Images

Updated Mar 8th 2021, 7:56 PM

POLICE IN THE North are investigating reports of large crowds on Belfast’s Shankill Road after Rangers won the Scottish Premiership.

People were pictured filling the area, despite a ban on public gatherings under coronavirus restrictions.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has indicated that “appropriate enforcement action” will be taken.

Superintendent Nigel Henry said officers received reports of a street party and flares and fireworks being set off on the Shankill Road, as well as fireworks in the Ballysillan Road area.

He described the scenes as “disappointing”.

“The numbers involved in the scenes last night were clearly a breach of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations, which is so disappointing when we know so many other people are adhering to the regulations and playing their part to keep people safe,” he said.

“An investigation is under way, and appropriate enforcement action will be taken in relation to breaches of the regulations.”

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the “infuriating and disgraceful” celebrations in Glasgow as she urged Rangers to ask people to go home.

Thousands of fans flouted the coronavirus lockdown to gather in the streets and celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish Premiership – their first top-flight title in 10 years.

The mass gatherings were widely condemned, with the First Minister warning that the celebrations could jeopardise plans to ease the coronavirus restrictions.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary and police chiefs also urged rule-breakers to go home but the pleas went unheeded, with fans packed into George Square and congregating outside Ibrox stadium.

Shortly after 5pm, Police Scotland said a “small number” of arrests had been made and officers at the scene were attempting to encourage fans to return home.

By 9.30pm, police officers had encircled a depleting group of fans at the base of the Scott monument and the force revealed more arrests had been made and fines issued.

2.58485841 Fans celebrate in George's Square Source: Jane Barlow/PA Images

Sturgeon tweeted: “I share folks’ anger at this.

“Everyone has made so many sacrifices in the past year and seeing a minority risk our progress is infuriating and disgraceful.

“It is deeply unfair to the entire country, and the police have a hard enough job already.

“Please ask fans to go home @RangersFC”.

The club tweeted or retweeted 52 times in the six hours after they were crowned champions, but didn’t address the mass gathering of fans.

Sturgeon had previously offered her congratulations to Rangers and said: “I congratulate @RangersFC on the title win & recognise what a moment this is for fans.

“But gathering in crowds just now risks lives, and could delay exit from lockdown for everyone else.

“If those gathering care at all about the safety of others and the country, they will go home.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf also asked fans to stay at home.

He wrote on Twitter: “I understand Rangers fans will be desperate to celebrate but please remember you must stay at home.

“No mass gatherings are allowed. We cannot risk any further spread of the virus.”

Yousaf warned that “Uefa will also be paying close attention as the Euros are around the corner”.

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Hampden Park in Glasgow is due to host some games of the delayed 2020 European Championships in the summer.

Shortly before 9pm, Police Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for the Greater Glasgow Division, urged people to “consider the public health impact of this gathering” and told fans not to travel into the city.

Sutherland said: “We are continuing to police the ongoing gathering of football supporters in George Square today.

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“Officers have continued to move to enforcement where appropriate with a number of further arrests and additional fixed penalty notices for breaches of the coronavirus restrictions, minor incidents of disorder and the use of pyrotechnic devices.

“We are now asking people to disperse and make their way home.

“For those not in attendance, please do not make your way to Glasgow city centre.”

Alan Irvine, 43, from Glasgow, was out celebrating with his daughter Katie, 12, and son Lewis, six.

“The atmosphere when Steven Gerrard appeared was amazing,” Irvine told the PA news agency. “He has now achieved a God-like status.

“This is the first title win of Lewis’s life and the first that Katie can remember as she was only a baby the last time. It was an amazing experience to see my children enjoy the success I experienced when I was a young Rangers supporter.

“As for any criticism, then I can only speak from what I have seen outside the Rangers training centre, and the absolute majority were wearing face coverings and adhering, as much as possible, to social distancing. In fact, I’ve seen less social distancing in some retailers.”

Darryl Mclean, a 34-year-old logistics manager from Glasgow, added: “I’m outside Ibrox stadium, thousands of people here.

“It’s very emotional, as fans we have been to hell and back, watching greedy directors out for themselves, been taken to the brink of extinction.

“But we stood firm and supported the club through thick and thin.

“I know we are not meant to be meeting outside at the moment but the occasion was just too momentous, it’s like Christmas for Rangers!”

Following Rangers’ victory on Saturday, fans broke coronavirus lockdown rules as they gathered in numbers outside Ibrox setting off flares.

Police said no arrests were made.

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