Legal proceedings – Van Morrison takes legal action against Northern Ireland health minister

Sir Van Morrison is taking legal action against the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and its health minister Robin Swann over an article written for Rolling Stone magazine.

In the opinion piece, first published in the US in September 2020, Mr Swann described anti-Covid lockdown songs written by Van Morrison and released that month as “dangerous” and a “smear” on those engaged in the public health response to the virus.

The Van Morrison songs contained lyrics that referenced scientists “making up crooked facts” to justify steps that “enslave” people, asserting that: “The new normal, is not normal. We were born to be free.”

Mr Swann said in the Rolling Stone article: “”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.”

Swann also contended that Van Morrison’s words would bring “great comfort to the conspiracy theorists, the tin foil hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.”

In a statement, Van Morrison’s spokesperson confirmed that the musician had issued legal proceedings against Mr Swann and the Department of Health as “co-publishers” of the Rolling Stone article. It is not clear what grounds he is relying on in his action.

The Department of Health told the BBC that it would not comment on active legal matters.

In November 2021, it emerged that Mr Swann had himself issued defamation proceedings against Van Morrison, after the singer chanted during a June 2021 dinner event at Belfast’s Europa Hotel that the minister was “very dangerous”.

Mr Swann’s claim is also understood to have been brought over two further incidents, involving Van Morrison’s commentsto the press and in a video on his YouTube channel.

Commenting on the claim in November 2021, the musician’s solicitor said Van Morrison “asserts… that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment”.