NI minister criticises Van Morrison over Covid-19 remarks

Robin Swann tells Rolling Stone Morrison is encouraging ‘tin foil hat brigade’

Northern Ireland's Minister for Health Robin Swann has accused Van Morrison of making dangerous comments about Covid-19 and giving succour to "conspiracy theorists and the tin foil hat brigade".

Morrison, who turned 75 last month, has faced a storm of criticism for stating that lockdowns as a result of Covid-19 were the work of “fascist bullies” wanting to “enslave” the public.

Writing in Rolling Stone magazine, Mr Swann said people in the North were proud of Morrison’s achievements as a music legend for half a century, but “there was a real feeling of disappointment” over his comments about Covid-19.

Mr Swann pointed out that Morrison, who described himself as apolitical throughout his career even during the Troubles, has suddenly decided to write political songs about Covid-19.

Van Morrison is going way beyond raising questions. He is singing about 'fascist bullies' and claiming governments are deceiving people and wanting to 'enslave'

“He could have chosen to sing about how we all can help save lives. He could have written a tribute to our health and social care workers on the frontline,” Mr Swann wrote.

“There are also so many things in the world to sing protest songs about, like poverty, starvation, injustice, racism, violence, austerity – there’s a long list.

“Instead, he’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society.”

Morrison has composed three songs about the lockdown which he will release over the coming weeks.

Born To Be Free is out on Friday, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown will be released next month.

On his website, Morrison wrote: “I call on my fellow singers, musicians, writers, producers, promoters and others in the industry to fight with me on this.

"Come forward, stand up, fight the pseudo-science and speak up. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and myself appear to be the only people in the music business trying to get it back up and running again. Come forward."

Health advice

Mr Swann accused Morrison of encouraging people not to take Covid-19 seriously by not following the health advice.

“Governments across the world are struggling to find the right path through this pandemic,” he wrote .

“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.

“It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher,” Mr Swann said in the article.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times