Ian Paisley Jnr ‘should know better’ says Derry MP after ‘frankly embarrassing’ chant with Van Morrison
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has branded an impromptu duet in which Van Morrison and DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior chanted NI Health Minister Robin Swann was ‘dangerous’ as ‘frankly, embarrassing’.
Mr Eastwood was commenting in relation to events at the Europa Hotel on Thursday night where Van Morrison was performing and Ian Paisley Jr MP was in the audience,
A video clip has emerged from the event purporting to show the global icon Morrison chanting ‘Robin Swann is dangerous’ in what is believed to have been a reference to comments made by the Health Minister that protest songs over the restrictions imposed due to COVID released by Van Morrison were dangerous in a magazine last year.
In an opinion piece for Rolling Stone magazine back in 2020, Robin Swann said people “expected better” in connection with Van Morrison’s criticism of the scale and duration of the Covid lockdown.
Mr Swann wrote: “However, it goes further than disappointment. Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous. It could encourage people to not to take Coronavirus seriously.”
Van Morrison has launched three anti-lockdown protest songs expressing concern over the restrictions. In one of those, On No More Lockdown, he sings: “No more lockdown/No more government overreach.... No more taking of our freedom/And our God-given rights/Pretending it’s for our safety/When it’s really to enslave.”
At one point in the video recorded at the Europa Ian Paisley Jnr joins Morrison on stage as he continues to chant the remark about Mr Swann.
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said: “Last night’s Van Morrison and Ian Paisley Jr duet at the Europa Hotel was, frankly, embarrassing.
“Health Minister Robin Swann has been at the forefront, alongside all of our health workers, in dealing with the covid pandemic.
“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. Those comments fly in the face of those who have died and lost loved ones as a result of Covid-19.
“Our focus now should be on ensuring that everyone is able to receive the vaccine and the post-pandemic recovery, not vilifying those who are making decisions to keep us safe.
“Van Morrison has let himself down, but Ian Paisley Jr should know better,” claimed Mr Eastwood.
In a statement issued on Friday evening, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said: “Last night’s event was very sad for the live music industry. I 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.
“I certainly don’t believe Robin is dangerous. I think the parody and sarcasm of that comment is obvious! Remember last year the Department of Health labelled a song dangerous and I think Van is entitled to parody that. There is a balance in all of these matters and at times we get them right and at times wrong.
“We are all entitled to our own views on how the lockdown has been managed. I’m sure some will take offence - as with all things- but none was intended on my part.”
Elsewhere Mr Swann has been widely praised for his leadership during the pandemic.
Ulster Unionist Leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA, said Mr Paisley should be ‘ashamed’ of himself.
Mr Beattie said: “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. They should be ashamed of themselves. Two grown men who should know better.
“Robin Swann has worked tirelessly during the Covid-19 pandemic to save lives, and to watch him being denigrated by Ian Paisley and Van Morrison is appalling.
“I have questions for Edwin Poots - does he agree with Ian Paisley`s vile comments that Robin Swann is ‘very dangerous’? Is that a position Edwin Poots wants to align the DUP with? Edwin will know that many people believe Ian Paisley is the real power in the DUP following the coup against Arlene Foster. If he fails to disassociate himself from Ian Paisley`s comments and take action against him, then that will only reinforce that view.”