Irish Health Minister Sues Van Morrison Over Criticism of Covid Measures

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister seems to be channeling the lyrics of Van Morrison’s song Heavy Connection: “You come into my dreams from a whisper to a scream.” Minister Robin Swann is preoccupied with Morrison’s criticism of his policies so he is now suing Morrison for defamation. The latest comments came after a concert was cancelled at the last minute. In an attack on free speech, Swann is suing Morrison for clearly political speech objecting to the actions of a public official.

Morrison has called Swann a “fraud,” and repeatedly said Swann is “dangerous.” In a gig in June Morrison chanted “Robin Swann is very dangerous.”  The 76-year-old musician has been objecting to  government-imposed restrictions on live music performances, according to the BBC.  Morrison’s lawyer, Joe Rice, has correctly objected “that the words used by [Morrison] related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.”

What is interesting is that Swann has been using free speech to rebut the allegations, including an op-ed for the Rolling Stone magazine.

In the United States, this is clearly protected political speech. It is also subject to a higher standard of proof for defamation. The standard for defamation for public figures and officials in the United States is the product of a decision decades ago in New York Times v. Sullivan. This is precisely the environment in which the opinion was written. The Supreme Court ruled that tort law could not be used to overcome First Amendment protections for free speech or the free press. The Court sought to create “breathing space” for the media by applying standard to both public officials and public figures. As such, public officials and public figures must show either actual knowledge of its falsity or a reckless disregard of the truth.

I have been a critic of the increasing curtailment of speech in Great Britain through hate speech laws and other means.  Such laws create an insatiable appetite for greater and greater speech regulation and create a sense of empowerment among citizens to silence those with whom they disagree.  We have been following (here and here and here and  here and here and here and here) the worsening situation for years.

The use of defamation laws to curtail speech has been a favorite tactic by government officials to run up costs and ruinous damage awards for critics. What is particularly striking is that Swann used free speech to combat what he considered bad speech. However, he then turned to more coercive means to try to silence Morrison.

Calling an official a “fraud” or his policies “dangerous” is core political speech. If citizens can now be sued for such political speech, it would be a chilling effect on free speech that would be perfectly glacial.

It does not help that I am almost as big a Van Morrison fan as I am a free speech fan. However, Swann would be wise to follow Morrison’s lyrics and “Let your soul and spirit [and free speech] fly.”

 

8 thoughts on “Irish Health Minister Sues Van Morrison Over Criticism of Covid Measures”

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM9nx3rUdSg

    I wish Robin Swann continued success with his mission to silence free speech and to take urgently needed actions to block thoughts that he deems objectionable. Perhaps Swann could also sue Eric Clapton, who has been saying some things that authorities would consider objectionable. In fact, perhaps Swann could even sue the Estate of Frank Zappa retroactively for objectionable statements that Zappa made at various points in his lifetime. We must trust the good judgment of all authority figures in such matters, such as the wise and judicious Swann.

  2. The globalist plan is faltering. Every effort to defend themselves by attacking citizens only serves to validate that they are liars whose only tool is force. The truth needs no defense.

    Seems to me that Robin Swann is a bit of a pathetic snowflake as well as a dangerous psychopath.

    We seem to be reaching the next stages of totalitarianism, in which it is illegal to criticize a public official. Dangerous times lay ahead.

  3. I’ve always enjoyed your work, Mr. Turley, but now as never before. To lead off by quoting Heavy Connection from (the mostly ignored) A Period of Transition album? I kind of love you, Yes it knocks me off my feet.

    Let it all hang out!

  4. The Professor hits the nail squarely on the head this time.

    Now cue the usual nimrods who shall use the Professor’s Blog to attack the Professor all the while attacking his views about Free Speech while they do so freely here.

    They are incapable of seeing how their words contradict what they are saying.

    Ready…..3-2-1-….and the posts by Anonymous, Natcha, Silberman begin to pour in.

    1. You are right Rallph, Anonymous, the bad one, will be here in a minute reminding us that Turley works for Fox, as if that is germane to the conversation.

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