Van Morrison sued for libel by Health Minister

Singer-songwriter Sir Van Morrison is being sued for libel by Northern Irish Health Minister, Robin Swann.

Mr Swann is suing in relation to three incidents. The first was an incident at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, after a gig Van Morrison was due to play was cancelled at the last minute due to Covid-19 restrictions. The singer got on stage at a pre-show dinner event and chanted that Mr Swann was ‘very dangerous’. He was joined on stage by DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr. A clip of the incident went viral in June. Ian Paisley defended his actions as ‘parody’ and ‘banter’ but confirmed that he did not think the Minister was dangerous.

Mr Swann hit back in an op-ed with Rolling Stone Magazine in September. The piece included discussion of Van Morrison’s public comments on the Covid-19 pandemic. Swann wrote: ‘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.’

The second incident relates to Van Morrison calling Mr Swann a ‘fraud’ when approached by a Sunday Life journalist. The third relates to a YouTube video, in which the singer again called Mr Swann ‘dangerous’.

Van Morrison has been an outspoken critic of Covid-19 restrictions. The 76year old singer, who was knighted in 2016, has released a number of songs critical of the way the pandemic has been handled, including one called ‘No More Lockdown’.

The ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ singer is defending the proceedings. He asserts that the words used ‘related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.’ His lawyers confirmed that a defence has been served and stated that Van Morrison ‘regrets that Mr Swann considered it necessary to issue proceedings.’

Van Morrison had brought a legal challenge to the ban on live music in Northern Ireland but dropped the action after restrictions were eased in August.