The FAI chief executive took to the airwaves to defend himself after a video emerged in which he is heard singing ‘Joe McDonnell’, a ballad about the IRA hunger striker who died in 1981 and who had been jailed for terrorist offences. It was recorded in the Bath Pub near the Aviva Stadium following last week’s 4-1 victory by the Irish team over the USA.
The Guardian reported that solicitors acting for Mr Delaney had said on Monday that it was not him in the footage and warned: “If you take the decision to publish legal proceedings will follow.”
Sports website balls.ie said it too had been contacted. “After posting the story Friday night, we were contacted by this FAI representative the following morning who advised we take the post down as we were leaving ourselves open to legal proceedings. When questioned on whether or not it was Delaney in the video [we] were told that it wasn’t him.”
Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on 2FM, Mr Delaney said he was sorry if anyone had been offended but stressed that he did not believe every lyric to the song and was not a violent person.
“’Joe McDonnell’ is a song that has been sung in my presence, and that I have chipped in or I have sang on a number of occasions in the past,” he said of the Wolfe Tones-penned song.
“I am not somebody who supports violence at all, in fact over a large number of years I have been working very closely on cross-border initiatives in football to break down barriers, I am just not a violent person. My grandfather fought in the Civil War, he also fought in the War of Independence, I’ve always said I have a nationalist background. When you sing a song like that you don’t believe every word that is in the song.
“Unfortunately on occasions people use camera phones in a sly way and they try and tape it, people who are not in your company, and then they try to make something bigger than it is. If the song offends anybody of course I’m sorry, that is not in my nature to want to offend people, but it is something I sang or have had sung in my presence in private in the past.”
His singing of the song has attracted criticism at a time when the England supporters band was reprimanded after last week’s game with Scotland for playing along to an anti-IRA song.
Ireland play England in a friendly next year — the first time they will have met on Irish soil since the notorious friendly in 1995 when English fans rioted at Lansdowne Road.
While some supporters have defended Delaney’s right to sing ‘Joe McDonnell’, others have claimed that it could be seen as inflammatory.
Brian Warfield, who wrote the song, told Liveline he could not understand how his “well-meaning song” had caused any offence.
The Irish Examiner contacted the FAI and British law firm DeBello for comment in relation to the initial correspondence to The Guardian and balls.ie, but no response was forthcoming.
In September, businessman Denis O’Brien, who provides financial assistance to the Irish management team, said John Delaney “could run anything”, including FIFA and UEFA. A message was left with his spokesperson yesterday seeking his view as to the latest controversy, but no response was forthcoming. Joe McDonnell lyrics
Oh my name is Joe McDonnell
From Belfast town I came
That city I will never see again
For in the town of Belfast
I spent many happy days
And I loved that town in oh so many ways
For it’s there I spent my childhood
And found for me a wife
I then set out to make for her a life
Oh but all my young ambition
Met with bitterness and hate
I soon found myself inside a prison gate
And you dare to call me a terrorist
While you look down your gun
When I think of all the deeds that you have done —
You have plundered many nations
Divided many lands
You have terrorised their people
You ruled with an iron hand
And you brought this reign of terror to my land
Through the many months internment
In the Maidstone and the Maze
I thought about my land throughout those days
Why my country was divided
Why I was now in jail
Imprisoned without crime or without trial
And though I love my country
I am not a bitter man
I’ve seen cruelty and injustice at first hand
And so one faithful morning
I shook bold freedom’s hand
For right or wrong I tried to free my land
Then one cold October’s morning
I was trapped in the lion’s den
And I found myself in prison once again
I was committed to the H-Blocks
For fourteen years or more
On the “blanket” the conditions they were poor
Then a hunger strike we did commence
For the dignity of man
But it seemed to me that no one gave a damn
Oh but now I am a saddened man
I’ve watched my comrades die
If only people cared or wondered why
Oh may God shine on you, Bobby Sands
For the courage you have shown
May your glory and your fame be widely known
And Francis Hughes and Ray McCreesh
Who died unselfishly
And Patsy O’Hara, and the next in line is me
And those who lie behind me
May your courage be the same
And I pray to god my life was not in vain
And though sad and bitter was the year of 1981
All was not lost, but it’s still there to be won