Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley claims Stormont 'couldn't run a bath' after Van Morrison gig cancelled

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has hit out at Stormont following the last minute cancellation of Van Morrison shows

DUP MP Ian Paisley has claimed Stormont "couldn't run a bath" after a Van Morrison concert was cancelled at the last minute because it did not comply with Covid regulations.

In an angry outburst Mr Paisley, who had tickets for the gig in Belfast last night, took a swipe at the Stormont Executive, where his party has collective responsibility for making decisions.

The show at the Europa Hotel - the first of a planned four-night run - was cancelled just hours before it was due to go ahead.

Hotel boss Howard Hastings said communities minister Deirdre Hargey told the assembly on June 1 that concerts could go ahead "as long as they keep within the regulations".

The Hastings Hotel group owner, who had hoped the event could run as a 'test event', was scathing of the Executive Office who informed him just hours before that the shows would not be allowed.

And speaking outside the Europa after the cancellation was confirmed, the North Antrim MP, said: "That crowd at Stormont, who told Howard Hastings this was a 'yes', couldn't run a bath".

"Little bit of wonder there's disarray tonight," he told BBC NI.

Ministers agreed yesterday that live music could resume across the north on June 21.

The Van Morrison gig was discussed at the Executive meeting.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "Yes, we did discuss it and no, it can't go ahead."

Mr Hastings said he had asked the Executive Office for guidance two months ago and "for four weeks they neither confirmed or denied that we could proceed".

He said he took Ms Hargey's statement in the assembly "as a go-ahead and planned on that basis".

He said he asked the Executive Office again on Wednesday night if the shows could go ahead.

"This afternoon they came back to say that they remain of the view that live music is unlawful at this time," he said.

The Department of Communities was approached for comment last night.

The cancellation comes amid serious concerns that the highly-infectious Delta variant of coronavirus is continuing to spread across the north.

A briefing document from the Department of Health to the Executive suggested that a quarter of new cases may be the Delta variant.

In the document, health minister Robin Swann warned that "normality, as we knew it in 2019, is still some way off".

The briefing also warned of a possible "significant fresh surge" of positive cases and hospitalisations by late summer or early autumn.

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