Belfast-born singer-songwriter Van Morrison – who’s been a vocal critic of COVID-19 lockdown measures – is facing a libel lawsuit from Northern Ireland minister of health Robin Swann.
Outlets including Sunday Life have reported on the complaint against 76-year-old Van Morrison, and Robin Swann (who became health minister in January of 2020) has reportedly enlisted defamation attorney Paul Tweed to spearhead the action. 66-year-old Tweed resides in Belfast and has represented high-profile clients such as Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake, to name just some.
“Brown Eyed Girl” singer and songwriter Van Morrison, who has released several anti-lockdown tracks and donated the proceeds to struggling musicians, was served with the lawsuit back in June, per Sunday Life once again. A September follow-up reportedly detailed the claims, and Van Morrison and his legal team then refuted the allegations in October.
These allegations, for their part, reportedly center on critical comments that Van Morrison made about Robin Swann last year. Video captured in June shows the Moondance creator describing Swann as “very dangerous” while speaking before an audience; North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr. ultimately joined him on stage and echoed the remarks.
Worth noting is that Van Morrison shortly after the occurrence elaborated upon his criticism of Swann in two videos, which run a combined total of nearly 15 minutes. “I put these songs out, and this Robin Swann character, he decided he wanted to get mixed up in my business. So he contacted an American music magazine called Rolling Stone. I think he wanted to be in the music business or be famous or whatever it was.
“Which was very strange, to contact an American rock magazine when the songs were UK-centric, they were against the UK government, they were anti-UK government lockdown. … He made derogatory comments about myself. So having gotten himself mixed up in my business, I decided to have a look at him,” he said, before reciting a list of reasons behind his comments and opinions.
Swann’s lawsuit also reportedly focuses on an interview that the defendant gave in June of 2020, in which he doubled down on his remarks about the government employee, as well as the above-mentioned videos. Tweed indicated in a brief statement: “Proceedings have been issued and are ongoing against Van Morrison. We are aiming for a trial in February.”
And Van Morrison’s counsel confirmed the legal showdown when speaking with BBC and relayed: “Mr Morrison asserts within that defence that the words used by him related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Van Morrison is scheduled to perform several shows in Florida and Nevada in February, and the stops currently represent the only stateside gigs that the two-time Grammy winner has booked for next year. In late September, Phoebe Bridgers was named in a defamation suit over statements made in an Instagram post.