Van Morrison Threatens Legal Bid Over Coronavirus Lockdown
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Van Morrison's legal intent. He is not filing suit to compel Northern Ireland's government to end a national lockdown.
Van Morrison has started legal action regarding the Northern Irish government's refusal to open live music venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The country is now in full lockdown as a result of escalating infection and hospitalization numbers, and the government is expected to extend the current “stay home” rules into March. Morrison – who has described social distancing as “pseudo-science” and later released lockdown protest songs, including one with Eric Clapton – wants to make key changes once the quarantine is lifted.
He filed a document known as a pre-action protocol letter on Jan. 12, which gives the Department of Health 21 days to respond before actual court procedures can begin. Attorney Sarah Symington told Rolling Stone that the letter was “challenging the blanket ban of live music,” and that if the government department didn’t respond within the deadline, “we would issue proceedings immediately to the High Court.”
Joe Rice, another of Morrison's lawyers, told RTE that the singer "is determined to ensure that, as we endeavor 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."
Rice added that he planned to argue that “the ban is unsustainable in law and not based on credible scientific or medical evidence,” and that the legal bid was “on behalf of the thousands of musicians, artists, venues and those involved in the live music industry.”
Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann expressed “disappointment” after Morrison's September description of the authorities as “fascist bullies” who were “making up crooked facts” to “enslave” the population. “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 noted.