Van Morrison planning legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s pandemic ban on live music

Morrison's legal representatives say he will "issue proceedings immediately to the High Court" if required

Van Morrison is reportedly planning a legal challenge in response to Northern Ireland’s ban on live music to fight the coronavirus.

The 75-year-old has been an outspoken critic of pandemic lockdown measures for months now, criticising the “pseudo-science” of socially distanced gigs in August and writing multiple songs denouncing lockdowns.

Now, as RTE reports, Morrison’s lawyers have confirmed that the singer filed a pre-action protocol letter with Northern Ireland’s Department of Health on January 12. In it, he challenged regulations that prohibit live music in indoor licensed venues in Northern Ireland, which is in the midst of a six-week lockdown that began on Boxing Day. Hospitality and entertainment venues are currently closed.

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Rolling Stone reports that Morrison has given authorities 21 days to respond, and should the Department of Health not respond within that time frame, Morrison will “issue proceedings immediately to the High Court”, his legal representatives said.

Through his solicitor Joe Rice, Morrison reportedly claimed that “live music” has not been defined, leading to a blanket ban on all types of performances. “Many people in the music and arts world in Northern Ireland have been devastated financially, socially and artistically by this complete ban,” Rice told RTE. “This differs from the law in England and Wales and the evidence behind such a negative decision in this jurisdiction is far from obvious.”

Rice added that Morrison was acting “on behalf of the thousands of musicians, artists, venues and those involved in the live music industry”.

“He is determined to ensure that, as we endeavour to emerge safely from this lockdown, artists and musicians will have a proper opportunity to play their part through live music to restore the cultural, social and economic wellbeing and success of our society.”

Morrison caused a stir last year when he released three songs in protest of Britain’s lockdown measures. In ‘No More Lockdown’, Morrison alleged that the measures have been used to “enslave” the British public, taking aim at “crooked facts” and “fascist bullies“.

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Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann criticised Morrison’s songs, which he called a “smear on all those involved in the public health response”.

“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,” Swann wrote in a September op-ed.

Morrison subsequently released another anti-lockdown song, ‘Stand And Deliver’, with Eric Clapton.

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