Van Morrison seeks judicial review of NI Executive's new live music regulations

Van Morrison believes steps taken by Stormont towards allowing the return of indoor music events in Northern Ireland are insufficient, his lawyers said today.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 4:00 pm

The High Court was told that the Belfast singer-songwriter is seeking further clarification from officials on what is meant by permitting ambient sound levels.

Despite the Executive announcing that live music can resume at venues next week, Sir Van is pressing ahead with a legal challenge to the prohibition introduced under Covid-19 rules.

He has been an outspoken critic of the blanket ban on live music, questioning the scientific and medical evidence to support the restrictions.

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Sir. Van Morrison.
Sir. Van Morrison.

Last month he took to the stage in controversial scenes at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after a number of planned gigs were cancelled.

On Thursday it was confirmed that live music will be allowed again from July 5.

The plans involve restricting music performed indoors to ambient levels only, with screens also to be erected.

As Sir Van's application for leave to seek a judicial review of the regulations came before the court for the first time, it was acknowledged that the situation had changed.

However, counsel for the performer argued that concessions by the Executive were insufficient.

Frank O'Donoghue QC requested the source materials to examine how the Executive came to its decision.

During the hearing questions were raised about what ambient levels meant, and whether this would be covered by background music or "muzak".

With the Department of Health resisting the legal challenge, it was indicated that up to 20 further documents will now be released to Sir Van's legal team.

Mr Justice Colton adjourned the case to later this month, when a hearing date is expected to be listed.

Outside court Sir Van's solicitor, Joe Rice, said: "From my client's point of view the changes announced last night, particularly in relation to ambient music, were far from precise and are insufficient.

"We now await the 20 documents referred to by the Department's senior counsel so that we can consider the case more fully and advise Sir Van further."

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