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Musician and Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health Robin Swann in legal battle following comments made by singer at Belfast dinner last June 
Musician Van Morrison is attempting to challenge a ruling that his legal battle with Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health Robin Swann should be heard without a jury. 
Counsel for the 76-year-old confirmed he would seek leave to appeal against the decision reached in actions related to the handling of Covid-19 restrictions in the North. 
Mr Swann issued defamation proceedings after Mr Morrison chanted that he was “very dangerous” during a dinner at Belfast’s Europa Hotel in June of last year. It came after gigs by the singer-songwriter at the venue were cancelled due to a ban on live music imposed as a pandemic restriction. 
The Moondance singer took to the stage and directed criticism at Mr Swann, with DUP MP Ian Paisley invited up from the audience to join the chants. Video footage of the incident subsequently went viral. Mr Paisley later defended his involvement as an act of parody, comedy, banter and sarcasm. The defamation claim also cites further incidents involving a media interview and online video. 
In a separate action, Mr Morrison is suing Mr Swann and the Department of Health over an opinion piece he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine. 
The article, published after the performer released anti-lockdown songs, expressed disappointment at someone he acknowledged as “one of the greatest music legends of the past 50 years”. He described the songs as a “smear” on those involved in the public health response to the pandemic. 
During a hearing at the High Court in June this year, lawyers on both sides set out opposing arguments on how the two related actions should proceed. 
Mr Swann’s legal team sought trial by a judge sitting alone, while Mr Morrison’s representatives pressed for the claims to be determined by a jury. Points were also raised about the complexity of the issues involved, and the potential for delay in securing a courtroom. 
Following deliberation, Mr Justice McAlinden held that both actions should be heard by a judge alone. 
Mr Morrison’s legal representatives attended the Court of Appeal on Tuesday as part of plans to seek leave to challenge that ruling. 
Barrister Peter Hopkins said permission was required before the notice of appeal can be served. 
With the trial on hold until the jury issue is finally determined, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan listed the challenge for a preliminary hearing next month. 
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