Covid: ‘There is no ban on live music in Northern Ireland’, court is told

A specific Covid-19 prohibition on live music in Northern Ireland has ended, it emerged today.
It is unclear how the developments impact on a similar challenge Van Morrison launchedIt is unclear how the developments impact on a similar challenge Van Morrison launched
It is unclear how the developments impact on a similar challenge Van Morrison launched

The development was confirmed in legal correspondence to a professional musician set to challenge the ban on playing at pubs and other venues introduced as part of coronavirus restrictions.

Co Down man Stephen Hamilton has worked with stars including Daniel O’Donnell and Nathan Carter during a 30-year career in the entertainment industry.

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Last year he commenced legal action over the lawfulness of legislation he claimed interfered with his right to earn a living.

Preliminary proceedings were taken against the Stormont Executive and Department of Health.

But according to a Departmental Solicitor’s Office letter the regulations which barred performances at indoor licensed venues have not applied since being replaced at midnight on December 25.

Correspondence sent to Belfast firm KRW Law on Thursday stated: “There is currently no specific prohibition on live music, although the potential for live music is of course impacted, as are multiple other activities, by the more general restrictions that currently apply, including on the carrying on of certain business, the operation of certain premises and on gatherings.”

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It also set out that self-employed musicians and entertainers who receive at least 50% of their income from licensed premises should be eligible for grants under The Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme.

Based on those developments the challenge was described as “superseded by events and academic”.

“Whether, as restrictions change in the future, any restriction on live music might be applied and, if so, on what terms, is a matter for future decision-making in the light of

all relevant circumstances pertaining at that time,” the letter added.

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It is unclear how the developments impact on a similar challenge Belfast-born singer-songwriter Van Morrison launched last month.

However, Mr Hamilton insisted it was good news.

“It’s a step in the right direction for our industry. I felt musicians were neglected and forgotten about,” he said.

Nathan Carter also welcomed confirmation that the specific ban on live music has been removed.

The star said: “It means that Stevie and every other musician can get back doing some work when restrictions ease.

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“The funding is also a welcome boost for musicians and entertainers across the country who make their living providing a service to pubs/hotels.”

According to Chris Doran of KRW Law musicians and entertainers throughout Northern Ireland could now benefit.

“The entertainment industry plays a massive part in our culture and well-being and that is something which I feel has been overlooked in the midst of this crisis,” he said.

“Of course all steps have to be taken to ensure public safety, but the legislation banning live music was disproportionate.”

Mr Doran added: “We commend the Department of Health for acting swiftly to strike out the ban and endorse some much needed financial support.”