As Northern Ireland’s nightclubs FINALLY open their doors again after 19 months, no masks and no vaccine passports are required – but is that likely to change any time soon?

No matter where you are in Britain or Ireland, you can now legally go to a nightclub again. This is the situation after Northern Ireland finally allowed them to reopen yesterday – over three months after England and nine days after the Republic of Ireland did so.

Masks aren’t essential, social distancing is “advised” in guidance but not essential, and there’s no mandatory requirement to show you’re double jabbed – unlike in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. But just like in England, the elephant in the room is, quite simply, could that change?

In England, vaccine passports are being kept “in reserve” as part of the government’s Plan B in the event of a spike in Covid cases over the winter – and exactly what the definition of “spike” is remains a mystery. But in Northern Ireland? The issue appears to have somehow got bogged down in sectarian politics.

The first minister of the country, Paul Givan of the unionist DUP, says he thinks vaccine passports would “impinge on people’s civil rights”. The nationalist SDLP think they’re necessary, and republican Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill says she’s “open minded” on the idea – months after they voted against them across the border.

Given the political stalemate on the question, it’s unlikely for the moment – but if there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that politicians have a habit of changing their minds…