Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots under pressure over Ian Paisley's 'Robin Swann is very dangerous' chant

Ian Paisley Jnr hugging Sir Van Morrison on stage at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Thursday night

NEW DUP leader Edwin Poots was under pressure last night to take action against Ian Paisley after he joined Van Morrison at a function chanting that Health Minister Robin Swann was "dangerous".

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he was "disgusted" after viewing the footage taken at the Europa Hotel.

It shows Sir Van saying "Robin Swann has got all the power, he is keeping us in this over 15 months" before repeatedly chanting "Robin Swann is very dangerous!".

The footage shows him inviting the North Antrim MP on stage, saying "come on Junior, you want to do it with me?" before they both repeat the chant.

The bizarre episode was captured at the function just hours after a four-night run of Van Morrison gigs at the venue were halted because they breached Covid restrictions.

Mr Beattie hit out at the attack on his party colleague saying: "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."

In a statement last night Mr Paisley defended his actions as "parody and sarcasm".

He said he was "put on the spot and called to the stage and tried to bring matters to a close by referencing some of Van's music".

"What was parody, comedy, banter and sarcasm should not be blown out of all proportion," he said.

"I certainly don't believe Robin is dangerous. I think the parody and sarcasm of that comment is obvious!"

He said people were "entitled to our own views on how the lockdown has been managed" and said he meant no offence.

Sir Van has been an outspoken critic of coronavirus restrictions and has written several anti-lockdown songs.

Last September the health minister penned a piece for Rolling Stone calling Morrison's 2020 anti-lockdown songs “dangerous.”

Mr Swann last night he was "disappointed" by the video.

"There seems to be a personal and maybe even a political attack on what was said last night," he said.

"But it's not going to affect what I have to do."

DUP leader Edwin Poots, a close associate of Mr Paisley, yesterday declined to comment.

"I haven't seen it so I can't comment on it," Mr Poots told the BBC.

The episode has drawn widespread criticism.

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 Executive.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said what happened flies "in the face of those who have died and lost loved ones” to covid,

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