The IRFU has said it asks employees not to express their personal beliefs in a way that will be associated with the rugby body, after a former Munster player claimed he was told to stop tweeting his opinion on the Middle East.
Duncan Casey, who played for Munster from 2013 to 2018, this week said that in 2014 the IRFU ‘panicked’ and asked him to ‘stop tweeting about Palestine’ after Mr Casey had made comments about the region in a press conference.
“I had been to Palestine the previous summer to learn more about the conflict,” Mr Casey tweeted of the 2014 media encounter.
“This came up in the press conference and when asked about my experience, I said something really innocuous about how people told me how bad it was going to be, I hadn't believed them, but was ultimately blown away by the situation and was trying to spread the word at home,” he said.
Mr Casey said that night he received a call informing him that a complaint had been made about his comments.
“They had sent in screenshots of my Facebook and Twitter profiles and stated that I was in violation of my contract because I was not supposed to get involved in political disputes,” he said.
“Through questions I asked, I was led to believe that a representative of the Israeli Embassy had put in the complaint.
IRFU panicked. After the game I was told I would have to stop tweeting about Palestine. I said no, that this was a human rights issue, not a political one.
“There was a bit of back and forth where meetings were slated to take place outlining how this violated my contractual obligations. I think they were waiting for the whole thing to blow over, which it did. No meetings ever took place, I kept on tweeting,” Mr Casey said.
The Irish Examiner contacted the IRFU to ask if it instructed Mr Casey to "stop tweeting about Palestine" as he had said, and whether it received a complaint from the Israeli Embassy about Mr Casey's comments on Palestine.
“The IRFU is not at liberty to discuss matters pertaining to any current or former employee,” a spokesperson said.
“The IRFU is a non-political organisation and we simply ask employees to ensure that personally held beliefs or opinions are expressed in a way, and at a time, where they will not be associated with the IRFU,” the IRFU said.
Mr Casey posted the anecdote to social media in reaction to recent comments by Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Ophir Kariv.
Mr Kariv alleged Fianna Fáil’s foreign affairs spokesman, Niall Collins, engaged in “anti-Semitic rhetoric” when he said there was a “huge Jewish lobby” across America that suppresses criticism of Israeli actions in the Middle East.
Mr Casey said the allegation was “infuriating nonsense which reminds me of my own experience as a Munster player”.
He said after the complaint, he “purposely held his tongue” when doing interviews.
“That's probably the biggest regret of my whole career, as I feel I had a platform during those few months to draw far more attention to the situation than I did,” he said.
So their tactics worked - put the shits up the person and send enough trouble their way that they think, "This actually isn't worth it", and keep their mouths shut.
“That's what they did with me, that's what they're doing with Niall Collins, with anyone that speaks out,” he claimed.
“So when you hear nonsense like this from the Israeli Ambassador or anyone else, calling someone an anti-semite or a racist for speaking out against war crimes and human rights abuses, remember that this is all part of the Israeli strategy to shut people up,” Mr Casey said.
The Irish Examiner contacted the Israeli Embassy in Dublin about Mr Casey's comments.
“The Embassy of Israel wishes to state that we have never had any contact with the IRFU regarding this issue," it said.