Friday, June 11, 2021

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Singer Van Morrison was joined on stage by a DUP MP as he launched a blistering attack on the North’s Health Minister Robin Swann following the late cancellation of concerts in Belfast.

The comments came after four gigs scheduled by Mr Morrison at the Europa Hotel were cancelled at the last moment on Thursday because live music is still not permitted under Covid restrictions.

The management of the hotel blamed confusion by Stormont ministers for the late notice, believing they had been given the green light to proceed.

The event went ahead as a dinner before a video of a previous gig by the Belfast singer-songwriter was played.

Mr Morrison, an outspoken critic of Covid restrictions, took to the stage where he addressed the audience of 140 and claimed that Mr Swann had called him “dangerous” during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Footage of the event at the Europa on Thursday night shows Mr Morrison saying: “Robin Swann has got all the power, he is keeping us in this over 15 months” before repeatedly chanting “Robin Swann is very dangerous!”.

The footage then shows him inviting DUP MP Ian Paisley on to the stage where they continued the chant.

Democratic Unionist Party meet to ratify new leader
DUP MP Ian Paisley. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mr Morrison then says: “This stops when we say ‘no’.”

Following a meeting of the British Irish Council in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland’s First Minister and deputy First Minister were asked about comments made by Mr Paisley.

Following the cancellation of the Europa concerts, Mr Paisley had said the Stormont Executive could not “run a bath”.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill responded: “We know it has been a really difficult time for musicians and artists, for 16 months they haven’t been able to work. Many are struggling financially and we regret that that has been the case but this has been a really challenging time dealing with the pandemic.

“We are not there yet in terms of live music but we were able to announce that from June 21, that is the date we hope we can return to live music.

“I note the criticisms, I note the commentary from one MP, but it might be OK for him to consider his night out but we have to consider protecting the public and safeguarding against the concerns that we have.”

Outgoing First Minister and former DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “It is not surprising, that particular individual has always taken a very critical approach to the Executive and our decisions around Covid-19, he will probably continue in that role.

“In terms of Covid-19, people are frustrated, people are fed up, but the decisions we take are there to try to cut down on the possibility of people having to go into hospital, to go into intensive care, and that is why we make those decisions.”

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