AceShowbiz - Northern Ireland's health minister has slammed Van Morrison over the singer's plans to release three songs protesting the coronavirus lockdown.
Morrison has revealed he has recorded tracks with lyrics that attacked government officials, accusing them of "making up crooked facts" to "enslave" the population, following Robin Swann's decision to tighten social-distancing restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Swann has now fired back, revealing he is "disappointed" in Van's "dangerous" comments.
"We in Northern Ireland are very proud of the fact that one of the greatest music legends of the past 50 years comes from our part of the world, so there's a real feeling of disappointment," the minister tells Rolling Stone. "We expected better from him."
"However, it goes further than disappointment. Some of what he is saying is actually dangerous. It could encourage people to not 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."
Swann added, "He is going way beyond raising questions... 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."
Meanwhile, Morrison has announced he will donate all the profits from the new tracks to musicians who are struggling during the crisis.
"Lockdown is taking away people's jobs and freedoms across all sectors of society," he said. "I believe live music is essential, and I worry that without positive action it will not survive. Without live music the world would be a much poorer place. It makes a huge contribution to the economy and you cannot put a price on what music does for people's wellbeing."