Van Morrison has demanded that a “real plan” for the return of live music performances in Northern Ireland be established after he had to cancel gigs at Ulster Hall, where he was set to perform next week.
Stormont ministers decided earlier this week to delay final decisions regarding the relaxation of Covid-19 measures set to go into effect next week, following growing concern around an upsurge in cases of the Delta variant.
Ministers have agrees to meet this week to revisit the decision to move forward with the relaxations.
Morrison said that the delay in relaxations and the return of indoor live music in Northern Ireland has had a negative impact on performers and crew members as well as on fans who have spent money on tickets and booked travel in advance.
Last month the Belfast singer was forced to cancel a series of gigs at the Europa Hotel in Belfast as they were in breach of standing Covid-19 regulations.
In place of his performance, Morrison, who has been open about his criticism of Covid restrictions, took to the stage at the Europe alongside DUP MP Ian Paisley where the pair chanted that Robin Swann, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister “is very dangerous”.
On Friday, concert promoter Joe Dougan revealed that he had been “forced” to cancel Van Morrison’s upcoming Ulster Hall performances at the last minute.
Morrison said:”It’s time for a real plan and real leadership. I have tried to be constructive over the past 16 months, engaging with government to propose practical suggestions as to how we bring back live music events based on robust individual health and safety risk assessments.
“This week, I played the York Barbican in front of a live audience but I can’t play in my hometown to a limited audience.
“We now have the most draconian restrictions of any region in the UK. Where is the scientific or medical evidence to support such measures?”
Dougan added:”It is disappointing, after many months of work, to have to cancel these sold-out events, and to disappoint so many fans.
“It is my strong belief that these reduced-capacity seated concerts are considerably safer prospects than many social settings that are already fully permitted under the law.
“Numerous appeals were discounted or ignored, and unfortunately we were left with no other options but to cancel outright.”
Stormont ministers are set to receive additional health data ahead of their meeting next week revisiting the relaxations.
These relaxations would include the reintroduction of live indoor music, as well as a proposal to end the requirement that sound from concerts be kept at an ambient level.
After Thursday’s meeting, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill revealed that ministers will continue to exercise caution when it comes to implementing relaxations.
“We’re going to continue to make steady progress but I think it’s important to say that we’re making these decisions in the context of an increase, a rapid increase in the number of cases but also, alongside that, in the last eight days we’ve seen the doubling of the number of people in hospitals,” O’Neill said.
“So a cautious approach I think is what’s required here, a steady approach, continuing to make progress bit by bit.”