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Van Morrison slams NI Executive again over postponed Belfast gigs… claiming economic impact of delays ‘substantial’


Sir Van Morrison has again criticised the Northern Ireland Executive

Sir Van Morrison has again criticised the Northern Ireland Executive

Sir Van Morrison has again criticised the Northern Ireland Executive

Sir Van Morrison has said the “enormous” impact of rescheduling his concerts cannot be “underestimated”, as not only have his fans “paid dearly” but the wider economy has taken a hit.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Sir Van hit out at Stormont’s Department for Communities, insisting its officials had his team “over a barrel” in terms of going ahead with the concerts on the original dates.

The Belfast blues legend had already hit out at the Executive on Monday for giving concert events and theatres the green light to reopen last night.

He described the lifting of restrictions “a kick in the teeth”, insisting the announcement had “come so late in the day”.

The Brown Eyed Girl hit-maker had been forced to reschedule two more gigs planned for the Ulster Hall in Belfast last weekend for later this month and in August.

Yesterday, he told this newspaper: "It’s important to make clear that, on Thursday evening (July 22), my team immediately sought to engage with the Department of Communities to ascertain whether there was any chance the shows scheduled at the Ulster Hall the following week would be given the green light.

"We pointed out the disparity in their argument given that similar events were already, lawfully, taking place in bar and restaurant settings across the province.

"Yet, despite such rational logic the department made it very clear to us that the decision regarding the lifting of restrictions on sound would not be made until Thursday, July 29 and the concerts could not, therefore, go ahead as planned.”

He added: “They had us over a barrel and we were forced to cancel all performances.”

Sir Van said he could not “underestimate the enormous impact that decision has had on the arts sector”.

"It has prevented incredibly talented session musicians and technical crew from the opportunity to earn some well needed income after many months of lost work,” he stressed.

"The promoter has suffered considerable losses in refunding the event. The fans have paid dearly too, losing flights and hotel bookings.

"The wider economic impact such as bars, taxis and restaurants is substantial.”

Sir Van claimed the DfC had “dramatically shifted position” over the weekend, adding that it was “open for debate” whether the Executive’s “unexpected decision” on Monday was “down to shambolic incompetence or intentional intervention”.

"The Executive made their announcement in the full knowledge that the calendar was effectively empty for the foreseeable future,” he insisted.

"It allowed them to appear on the surface to be supportive of the sector whilst simultaneously sabotaging it for many, many more weeks to come. In effect, this is the lifting of a ban on live music that helps no one as all indoor concerts have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.”

The DfC did not respond for a request for comment at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, last night the Lyric Theatre in Belfast reopened with a stage performance of Dracula to its first live audience since before lockdown — although it was operating at a third of its capacity.

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