Artist News

Northern Irish political parties unite in criticism of Van Morrison

By | Published on Tuesday 22 September 2020

Van Morrison

Following Van Morrison’s recent announcement that he plans to release three anti-lockdown protest songs, the Northern Irish musician has already caused one impressive political shift: he’s united the political parties of Northern Ireland. Sure, only on the point that these songs are “dangerous” and “unhelpful”, but it’s something.

In the three songs set to be released over the next month – ‘Born To Be Free’, ‘As I Walked Out’ and ‘No More Lockdown’ – Morrison alleges that the government is lying about the severity of COVID-19, while accusing the various political leaders of the UK of fascism and attempting to enslave people through lockdown under the guise of public health measures.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister – Ulster Unionist Party MP Robin Swann – who has already spoken out against the songs, has now written an op-ed for Rolling Stone further disparaging them.

“Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous”, he writes. “It could encourage people to not to take coronavirus seriously. If you see it all as a big conspiracy, then you are less likely to follow the vital public health advice that keeps you and others safe”.

“It’s entirely right and proper to debate and question policies”, he adds. “But Van Morrison is going way beyond raising questions. He is singing about ‘fascist bullies’ and claiming governments are deceiving people and wanting to ‘enslave’. It’s actually a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale”.

“His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tin foil hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms”.

“There are also so many things in the world to sing protest songs about, like poverty, starvation, injustice, racism, violence, austerity – there’s a long list”, he concludes. “Instead, he’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society. It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Democratic Unionist Party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster basically concurs with Swann.

Although “we live in a free country and therefore it is his right to write those songs”, she urges people to view them “in the context of art and entertainment, whereas we’re giving you a message based on science and data and the best advice that we have”.

“I hope that people will listen to the first and deputy first ministers, and to the executive, when we say this is a real threat, we need to take action, and we’re asking you to work with us on proportionate action”, she goes on.

Meanwhile, deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, adds: “I think his interventions are unhelpful, particularly given the juncture that we now are at in terms of trying to deal with COVID-19. We’re trying to save lives based on the best medical and scientific advice that we have and we’ll continue to do that”.

So far Morrison has only published the lyrics of the three songs – one of which references a debunked conspiracy theory. The first, ‘Born To Be Free’, is set for release this Friday.