Legendary singer Van Morrison has been granted the freedom of Belfast, his home city which has provided inspiration for much of his music.
The 68-year-old, whose real name is George Ivan Morrison, was hailed a hero as a motion recognising his “extraordinary contribution” received unanimous support at a specially convened meeting of Belfast City Council.
Morrison, a shipyard worker’s son, is only the second person in 10 years to receive the accolade – the highest a council can bestow.
Former Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson, who put forward the proposal, said he could not think of a more deserving recipient.
He said: “This is the time for Van Morrison’s home city to recognise the international impact of a Belfast legend, an east Belfast hero and one of our own.”
Throughout his 50-year music career Morrison has risen from the Irish showband scene to global stardom winning six Grammy Awards, a Brit as well as places in both the Rock and Roll and the Songwriters Halls of Fame.
Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir, who first mooted the idea of recognising the singer, said: “This is very much a symbol of the great esteem and respect all of us have for Van Morrison.”
It has not yet been decided how Belfast City Council plan to confer the honour but it is understood a public concert has not been ruled out.
Known to fans across the world as ‘Van the Man’, he has drawn inspiration from streets where he was born and raised for hits such as Cyprus Avenue and Hyndford Street.
Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh said his music had helped unite communities during the decades of sectarian conflict.
“In a divided city his music and the music of others was one of the things that united us and lifted our spirits,” he said.
Despite his achievements, Morrison has remained a keen supporter of local events and last year headlined the East Belfast Arts Festival.
Maire Hendron from the cross-community Alliance Party, whose constituency includes east Belfast, said the musician had always remained loyal to his home city.
She said: “He is a well-known musician throughout the world but he has never forgotten east Belfast.”
In May former Olympic champion Dame Mary Peters was awarded the accolade.
Previous recipients also include the Merchant Navy, who were given the Freedom of the City in 2002; poet John Hewitt; and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.