Van Morrison and DUP MP chant against 'dangerous' minister

DUP MP Ian Paisley joined Sir Van Morrison in chanting that Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann “is very dangerous” at a cancelled concert in Belfast.

It came after four gigs by Sir Van at the Europa Hotel were cancelled at the last moment on Thursday.

Sir Van has been an outspoken critic of Covid-19 restrictions.

He took to the stage and addressed about 140 people who were at the dinner event after the gig was cancelled.

Sir Van referred to previous comments made by Mr Swann in Rolling Stone magazine, in which he described the singer as dangerous.

‘Quite strange’

Mr Swann is a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the chanting against him drew an angry response from UUP leader Doug Beattie.

“Having watched the video of Ian Paisley and Van Morrison`s antics on the stage of the Europa Hotel in Belfast, I am absolutely disgusted by what I saw,” Mr Beattie said.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. Two grown men who should know better, engaging in a very personal attack on Northern Ireland`s health minister.”

The UUP leader added that Mr Swann “has worked tirelessly during the Covid-19 pandemic to save lives” and said it was “appalling” to watch him being denigrated.

Author Kevin Toolis, who was at the dinner, described the events as “quite strange”.

“I think the audience were a bit nervous, people didn’t chant,” he said.

Mr Toolis said that while Mr Swann may be many things, “dangerous is not a word most people would associate with him”.

In video of the event, seen by BBC News NI, Sir Van can be seen inviting North Antrim MP Ian Paisley onto the stage, who then joined him in the chant: “Robin Swann is very dangerous.”

Kevin Toolis

Mr Toolis added: “Just right at the end Ian Paisley Jr got on stage and they were sort of standing beside each other.

“It only lasted a few seconds but it was sort of the end of the evening, and then Van Morrison and everyone else left and then we got on with our dinner.

“It was all very quick and rushed and very confused, it seemed a bizarre, strange end to a really, really strange five minutes of your life.”

The hotel group had hoped to have the concerts classed as test events, but had to call them off on the advice of the Executive Office.

Mr Paisley had been critical of the executive’s decision making when speaking after news of the concert’s cancellation emerged.

“That crowd at Stormont, who told Howard Hastings (managing director of Hastings Hotels) this was a yes, couldn’t run a bath,” he told BBC News NI.

“Little bit of wonder there’s disarray tonight.”

On Friday, outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster said she was not surprised by Mr Paisley’s comments as “that particular individual” has always been critical of the Northern Ireland Executive.

‘Risk-assessed to within an inch of its life’

James McGinn, general manager of the Europa Hotel, said Thursday night’s events adhered to Covid restrictions.

“Everything was risk-assessed within an inch of its life and we’ve always been Covid compliant and obviously the welfare of my staff and all of our patrons were always top of our priority,” he said.

Last year, Sir Van accused the government of “taking our freedom” in three new songs that protest against the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Swann described the songs as dangerous and said if Sir Van had scientific facts he should present them.