FAI silent on legal threat over John Delaney’s IRA ballad

Uncertainty remains over who instructed London firm to contact major newspapers

A video showing FAI chief executive John Delaney singing 'Joe McDonnell' by The Wolfe Tones.

The FAI has again failed to respond to questions from The Irish Times over the controversy surrounding its chief executive John Delaney. This time the questions related to how a London-based law firm acting on behalf of the association came to inform at least two major British newspapers that the man singing the IRA song Joe McDonnell in a video posted on YouTube last week was not Delaney.

Hours later, the association’s chief executive went on national radio and admitted that it was indeed him.

Debello Law, a firm headed up by lawyer Dean Dunham, which describes itself as "hard hitting," and with a "first class reputation" contacted the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph on Monday to warn the newspapers off publishing the story about Delaney.

In its communication with the Guardian, the newspaper was informed that: “My client’s position is simply that it is not him singing in the video. If you take the decision to publish, legal proceedings will follow as it will undoubtedly cause various issues for my client.”


The wording of the communication appears to suggest that the firm had been instructed by Delaney, but at the time of writing Dunham had not returned a call made in the hope of clarifying this point.


In a statement put up on the FAI’s website, however, Delaney was quoted as explaining the situation thus: “I now understand that while I was travelling [on Monday] and uncontactable, there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened, which led to misunderstanding.”

The suggestion appears to be that six days after the incident and five after it appeared online, there was still uncertainty within the FAI as to whether Delaney was the person in the video and whether either the association or its chief executive hired the London firm.

The explanation provided by the 47-year-old fails to address the fact that Dublin-based website Balls.ie was also threatened with legal action in the event that it did not take a link to the video down. This threat was made verbally by a senior association staff member, and faced with the prospect of what it feared might turn into a potentially costly legal wrangle, Balls.ie opted to comply.

“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,” a piece on the site explained after Delaney’s acknowledgement that it was him in the online video.

“When questioned on whether or not it was Delaney in the video, [we] were told that it wasn’t him . . . we couldn’t afford to take the risk and we reluctantly took the post down.”

Delaney, in his various radio interviews, apologised “if anyone was offended,” by him singing the song.

Among those offended was former Irish Football Association president Jim Boyce, now senior vice-president at Fifa. "I'm totally shocked and saddened that someone I have known for many years should get involved in such stupidity," he said.

Bigotry and sectarianism

"As someone who has always condemned bigotry and sectarianism over many years and has witnessed much improvement in the situation in Ireland, this type of behaviour from the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland has to be condemned."

Apart from relations between the two associations on this island, the most pressing concern is how it might affect the English FA’s attitude towards the game in Dublin next June or the atmosphere among travelling England fans.

Delaney, though, seemed intent on blaming whoever had recorded him singing, repeatedly calling their actions “sly” and suggesting that he was in some way “misrepresented” by the recording. He referred to the gathering as “private”, despite the fact that it was in a pub to which there appears to have been a fairly open invitation around the corner from the Aviva Stadium a fairly short time after the conclusion of Ireland’s match with the USA.

“We all sing songs in private to our friends and an Irish sing-song is something that we all do,” he said.

“An Irish song in an Irish pub is not something that’s unfamiliar to most people, but you sing it in private. On many occasions I’ve heard that song sang, I’ve chipped in and I’ve sang it and if I’d known on any occasion that somebody would, in a sly way, tape me and try to use it in a way that represents you incorrectly I never would have sang it.

As for the song itself, he said: “It’s about Joe McDonnell who was one of the hunger strikers and who died and we all sing songs where we don’t believe in all the lyrics.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times