Northern Ireland’s health minister is suing Van Morrison after the singer called him “very dangerous” for his handling of coronavirus restrictions. The Belfast-born singer opposes restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, and has released several songs criticizing lockdowns.
He denounced Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann during a gathering at Belfast’s Europa Hotel in June after a Morrison concert was canceled at the last minute because of virus restrictions. The defamation suit relates to three incidents in which Morrison criticized Swann, calling him “a fraud” and “very dangerous.”
Swann responded in an article for Rolling Stone magazine, calling the “Moondance” singer’s claims “bizarre and irresponsible.” Swann’s lawyer, Paul Tweed, said proceedings “are at an advanced stage with an anticipated hearing date early in 2022.” The lawsuit was first reported in the Sunday Life newspaper.
Morrison’s lawyer, Joe Rice, said the singer would contest the claim. He said Morrison will argue “that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.” Morrison has adamantly opposed COVID restrictions, teaming up with Eric Clapton in December for the song “Stand and Deliver.”
The track, which supported Morrison’s Save Live Music campaign, featured the lines, “Do you wanna be a free man/ Or do you wanna be a slave?/ Do you wanna wear these chains/ Until you’re lying in the grave?” The song followed a few other anti-lockdown protest tracks from Morrison, including “Born to Be Free” and the more directly titled “No More Lockdown.”