Northern Ireland’s health minister has sued Van Morrison, who said the minister’s handling of Covid-19 restrictions was “very dangerous”.
Paul Tweed, the lawyer for Health Minister Robin Swann, confirmed on Monday that a lawsuit had been filed.
“Legal proceedings are now at an advanced stage, with an expected date for the hearing in early 2022,” Mr Tweed said in an email, adding that he cannot comment at this stage. The Belfast Telegraph reported on the lawsuit on Sunday.
Morrison’s attorney Joe Rice did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. He told The Associated Press that Mr Morrison would dispute the claim, arguing “that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and were an honest comment.”
In June, Mr. Morrison mr. Swann from the podium at the Europa Hotel in Belfast na several other concerts were cancelled due to virus restrictions.
Morrison, 76, born in Belfast and knighted in 2016, has dismissed the coronavirus pandemic – with the death toll surpassing five million people last week – as media hype and criticized Covid-19 restrictions through his music.
In late 2020, as a new wave of the pandemic raged, Mr Morrison released three protest songs criticizing the measures taken by the government of Northern Ireland to slow the spread of the virus. One song, “No More Lockdown,” claimed that scientists “made up wrong facts” about the virus.
At the time, Mr Swann called the songs “dangerous” in an interview with BBC Radio Ulster.
“I don’t know where he gets his facts from,” said Mr Swann of the songs. “I know where the emotions are about this, but I’ll say that kind of messaging is dangerous.”
The songs brought Mr. Swann also wrote an opinion article for Rolling Stone in which he said that Mr. Morrison’s “words will bring great comfort to the conspiracy theorists”.
In August, Mr Morrison dropped a legal challenge against a “general ban” on live music in licensed venues in Northern Ireland, according to the BBC. When Northern Ireland eased Covid-19 restrictions, live music was allowed to resume.
Morrison welcomed the news at the time, but also said he was disappointed that he had to cancel some concerts in Belfast over the summer.
In May, brought Mr. Morrison, who is known for hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance,” a double album, “Latest Record Project, Vol. 1.” The album, including the songs “Why Are You on Facebook?” and “They control the media,” has been attacked by critics who have accused Mr Morrison of anti-Semitism and embracing conspiracy theories.