Van Morrison mounts legal action over N.Irish virus curbs on live music

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London (AFP)

Music legend Van Morrison will challenge the Northern Irish government in court over its "blanket ban" on live music in licensed venues arising from coronavirus restrictions, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Solicitor Joe Rice told AFP the Northern Irish singer-songwriter, who has released several protest songs against Covid-19 rules in recent months, will ask the High Court in Belfast to review the policy.

"We will be seeking leave for judicial review to challenge the blanket ban on live music in licensed premises in Northern Ireland...," Rice said.

"We're not aware of any credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban... and we're going to challenge this in the High Court."

The UK, the country worst-hit in Europe by the virus, is currently struggling with its third and deadliest wave, blamed on a new strain believed to be highly infectious.

Devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have responsibility for health policy, have all imposed strict lockdown measures at various stages of the health crisis.

The Northern Irish executive in Belfast has introduced regulations that prohibit live music in indoor licensed venues in Northern Ireland.

All hospitality and entertainment venues are currently closed as part of a six-week lockdown, but Morrison is eager to challenge the rules for when they reopen.

Rice noted that the "Brown Eyed Girl" singer had been able to perform in England several times late last year before the British government tightened rules there.

He said he expected the case to be heard at the High Court within "weeks".

Morrison was taking the action "on behalf of the thousands of musicians, artists, venues and those involved in the live music industry, said Rice.

The singer, known as "Van the Man" to his fans, has stirred controversy during the pandemic, last August reportedly urging people to "fight the pseudoscience" around Covid-19.

A month later he released at two-week intervals a trio of new tracks -- named "Born To Be Free", "As I Walked Out", and "No More Lockdown" -- containing controversial lyrics.

They included: "No more government overreach / No more fascist bullies / Disturbing our peace" as well as "No more taking of our freedom / And our God given rights / Pretending it's for our safety / When it's really to enslave."