Northern Ireland’s health minister is suing Van Morrison after the singer called him “very dangerous” for his handling of coronavirus restrictions.
The Belfast-born singer opposes restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, and has released several songs criticizing lockdowns. He denounced Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann during a gathering at Belfast’s Europa Hotel in June after a Morrison concert was canceled at the last minute because of virus restrictions.
The defamation suit relates to three incidents in which Morrison criticized Swann, calling him “a fraud” and “very dangerous.”
After Morrison released three songs criticizing public health restrictions—“No More Lockdown,” “Born to Be Free,” and “As I Walked Out”—Swann wrote an opinion piece for Rolling Stone last September. In the piece, Swann called Morrison’s claims about COVID-19 mitigation measures “bizarre and irresponsible.”
For example, in the song “No More Lockdown,” Morrison sang, “No more lockdown/No more government overreach/No more fascist bullies/Disturbing our peace/No more taking of our freedom/And our God-given rights/Pretending it’s for our safety/When it’s really to enslave.”
As a result of those lyrics and more, Swann accused Morrison of giving aid and comfort to the “tin foil hat brigade,” and encouraging the spread of their dangerous disinformation:
Governments across the world are struggling to find the right path through this pandemic. It’s entirely right and proper to debate and question policies. It’s legitimate to ask if the right balance is being found in what is being done; if the right steps are being taken. None of this is easy or straightforward.
But Van Morrison is going way beyond raising questions. He is singing about “fascist bullies” and claiming Governments are deceiving people and wanting to “enslave.”
It’s actually a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale. His words will give 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.
Swann’s lawyer, Paul Tweed, said legal proceedings “are at an advanced stage with an anticipated hearing date early in 2022.” Morrison’s attorney, Joe Rice, responded that “the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.”
I’m not sure how this kind of nonsense has seeped into the brains of people who I once admired, but it’s a disturbing development. Of course, it could be worse. If Donald Trump had succeeded in stealing the 2020 election, Dr. Anthony Fauci might have been fired and replaced with Joe Rogan’s podcast producer. I’m only sort of kidding.
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