Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley Jnr and Sir Van Morrison's 'Robin Swann is very dangerous' chant slammed as 'embarrassing'

Ian Paisley Jnr hugging Sir Van Morrison on stage on Thursday

CHANTS by Ian Paisley and Van Morrison that "Robin Swann is dangerous" to an audience due to attend a gig by the musician in Belfast, "fly in the face of those who have died and lost loved ones" to covid, the SDLP leader said last night.

Sir Van spoke to the audience at the Europa Hotel on Thursday night after his gig was called off just hours before it was due to start as it breached covid regulations.

The musician later invited "junior" - the North Antrim MP - to join him on stage where he joined the chant against the health minister.

Sir Van has been an outspoken critic of the Covid lockdown and has written songs attacking it.

In a video taken on Thursday night, Sir Van referred to previous comments made by Mr Swann, in which he described the singer as dangerous.

Speaking to the crowd of around 120 people, the singer said: "Robin Swann said in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine, 'I was dangerous'. Well, OK. If I can't affect any change in this situation, right, I don't have any power, or my power is very limited to change this situation.

"Robin Swann has got all the power. He's keeping us in this, for over 15 months. All I have to say is, if I don't have any power - and my power is like extremely limited, if at all - Robin Swann's got all the power. So I say, Robin Swann is very dangerous."

Deputy First Minister Ms O'Neill said: "I note the criticisms, I note the commentary from one MP, but it might be OK for him to consider his night out but we have to consider protecting the public and safeguarding against the concerns that we have."

Outgoing First Minister and former DUP leader Mrs Foster said: "It is not surprising. That particular individual has always taken a very critical approach to the Executive and our decisions around Covid-19, he will probably continue in that role.

"In terms of Covid-19, people are frustrated, people are fed up, but the decisions we take are there to try to cut down on the possibility of people having to go into hospital, to go into intensive care, and that is why we make those decisions."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Sir Van and Mr Paisley's chants were "embarrassing".

"We all want to get back to gigs and live events, and that will hopefully happen in the next few weeks, but proclaiming Robin Swann as being ‘very dangerous' is just pathetic," he said.

"Those comments fly in the face of those who have died and lost loved ones as a result of Covid-19."

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he was "absolutely disgusted" by the video.

He called on DUP leader Edwin Poots to distance himself from Mr Paisley.

"If he fails to disassociate himself from Ian Paisley`s comments and take action against him, then that will only reinforce that view."

Hotel boss Howard Hastings said on Thursday that 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', was scathing of the Executive Office who informed him that the shows would not be allowed just hours before.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities said yesterday it told a representative of Sir Van that the concerts were not test events.

Following the cancellation of the shows, an angry Mr Paisley told the BBC: "That crowd at Stormont, who told Howard Hastings (managing director of Hastings Hotels) this was a yes, couldn't run a bath".

His own party has collective responsibility for making decisions in the Stormont Executive.

The DUP has been contacted for comment.

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