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Musician Stephen Hamilton taking legal action over NI coronavirus gigs ban


Professional musician Stephen Hamilton with Daniel O’Donnell

Professional musician Stephen Hamilton with Daniel O’Donnell

Professional musician Stephen Hamilton with Daniel O’Donnell

A professional musician is taking legal action over the ban on live performances introduced as part of Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Hamilton has worked with stars including Daniel O'Donnell and Nathan Carter during a 30-year career in the entertainment industry.

But he claims the prohibition on live music in pubs and other venues is now unlawfully interfering with his right to earn a living.

The Co Down man said: "For the foreseeable future I am effectively banned from working."

Mr Hamilton contends that the new rules are a disproportionate step, with inconclusive evidence that singing can spread the virus.

Judicial review proceedings are to be lodged at the High Court in Belfast against the Stormont Executive and the Department of Health.

The multi-instrumentalist has travelled internationally and featured in backing bands for some of Ireland's most successful entertainers.

Last year he borrowed money to help launch a solo career, but was left with no income following the lockdown. Despite qualifying for a Covid-19 hardship fund, the father-of-five still had to apply for benefits.

He is challenging the amended coronavirus regulations which came into operation last month. "The years training and performing as a musician seem wasted as so much uncertainty looms with no guidance or help for entertainers," Mr Hamilton said. His lawyers allege that the prohibition on live music in licensed premises curtails his freedom of expression.

The legal action will also involve claims that safety measures can be put in place to ensure live music can be performed with appropriate social distancing. Chris Doran of KRW Law said: "The outright ban on live music is disproportionate and discriminatory, no consideration was given to those working in the entertainment sector."

According to Mr Doran a solution-based approach should be taken where numbers attending events are limited.

He added: "Music and entertainment helped us all through the early lockdown, this is not how they should be rewarded."

Belfast Telegraph