Van Morrison has launched legal action against Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, as well as its minister Robin Swann, following an opinion piece written by the MP.
During the pandemic, the singer released several anti-lockdown songs, No More Lockdown, Born to Be Free and As I Walked Out, with lyrics accusing scientists of ‘making up crooked facts’ while insisting ‘we were born to be free’ and singing about ‘fascist bullies’.
In this latest development, reps for Morrison confirmed the singer had launched legal proceedings against the minister after Mr Swann’s op-ed, written for Rolling Stone magazine in September 2020, described the musical legend’s songs as a ‘smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale’.
In the piece, Mr Swann highlighted the damage Morrison – real name Sir George Ivan Morrison – may cause to public messaging around Covid in Northern Ireland, while also expressing ‘a real feeling of disappointment’ in the Brown-Eyed Girl songwriter.
Mr Swann wrote: ‘We in Northern Ireland are very proud of the fact that one of the greatest music legends of the past 50 years comes from our part of the world.
‘So there’s a real feeling of disappointment – we expected better from him.If you see it all as a big conspiracy, then you are less likely to follow the vital public health advice that keeps you and others safe.
‘His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tinfoil hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.’
Blasting his actions as ‘bizarre and irresponsible’, Mr Swann went on: ‘I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher.’
In a statement to BBC News NI, Morrison’s spokesperson said: ‘We confirm that legal proceedings have been issued against Mr Robin Swann MLA and the Department Of Health.’
However, the grounds on which he is taking action has not been specified.
The 76-year-old singer has been very vocal in his criticism of lockdowns and Covid restrictions and previously slammed the government for the last-minute cancellation of one of his gigs, following the country’s ‘blanket ban’ on live music in licensed venues amid pandemic restrictions.
Mr Swann sued Morrison for libel in November, after the singer called the politician ‘dangerous’ over his handling of the Covid pandemic.
He enlisted the services of libel lawyer Paul Tweed, who previously represented the likes of Harrison Ford, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez, to take Morrison to court.
Tweed said at the time: ‘Proceedings have been issued and are ongoing against Van Morrison. We are aiming for a trial in February.’
Morrison’s legal firm responded, as per the Guardian: ‘Mr Morrison asserts within that defence that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.’
Metro.co.uk contacted Van Morrison’s reps for comment.
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