Ian Paisley insists he does not believe Health Minister Robin Swann is dangerous

Ian Paisley and Van Morrison.

Q Radio News/PA

DUP MP Ian Paisley has said he does not believe Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann is dangerous.

Mr Paisley made a statement on Friday evening after he was criticised for joining Sir Van Morrison as he made a verbal attack on Mr Swann following the last minute cancellation of a live gig in Belfast.

It was branded by Mr Swann’s Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie as “disgusting”.

In a statement on Friday evening, Mr Paisley urged that what happened is not “blown out of all proportion”.

“Last night’s event was very sad for the live music industry. I was put on the spot and called to the stage and tried to bring matters to a close by referencing some of Van’s music. What was parody, comedy, banter and sarcasm should not be blown out of all proportion,” he said.

“I certainly don’t believe Robin is dangerous. I think the parody and sarcasm of that comment is obvious! Remember last year the Department of Health labelled a song dangerous and I think Van is entitled to parody that. There is a balance in all of these matters and at times we get them right and at times wrong.

“We are all entitled to our own views on how the lockdown has been managed. I’m sure some will take offence – as with all things – but none was intended on my part.”

Sir Van was joined by Mr Paisley at the Europa Hotel as he criticised Mr Swann following the late cancellation of concerts in Belfast this week.

Four gigs scheduled by the musician at the hotel were cancelled at the last moment on Thursday because live music is still not permitted under Covid restrictions.

The management of the hotel blamed confusion by Stormont ministers for the late notice, believing they had been given the green light to proceed.

The event went ahead as a dinner before a video of a previous gig by the Belfast singer-songwriter was played.

Sir Van, an outspoken critic of Covid restrictions, took to the stage where he addressed the audience of 140 and claimed that Mr Swann had called him “dangerous” during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Footage of the event at the Europa on Thursday night shows Sir Van saying “Robin Swann has got all the power, he is keeping us in this over 15 months” before repeatedly chanting “Robin Swann is very dangerous!”.

The footage then shows him inviting Mr Paisley on to the stage where they continued the chant.

Sir Van then says: “This stops when we say ‘no’.”

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