The greatest threat to Delaney is John Delaney himself . . .
Did John Delaney lie in an effort to cover up a story he feared would cause him embarrassment?
John Delaney: “I now understand that while I was travelling 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.”
Tony Fitzgerald turned 71 the day before he was elected unopposed as the new president of the FAI at the AGM last July. As he took the gold chain of power, it sounded like he was doing so with some degree of trepidation.
“Hopefully I will be able to live up to the task of this onerous position,” he said.
On Wednesday night, Fitzgerald made the first headline-grabbing intervention of his regime. “Following recent coverage of the cyber bullying of his partner Emma and the fact that John has publicly apologised if he offended anyone for singing the nationalist song in question, we are happy to bring the matter to a close,” he said in a statement on behalf of the FAI board.
While it was magnanimous of Fitzgerald to offer to draw a line under The Ballad of Joe McDonnell affair that has caused so much embarrassment for the FAI, his statement had failed to address the central question at the heart of the matter
Why did John Delaney’s lawyers tell the Guardian: “My client’s position is simply that it is not him singing in the video” only hours before Delaney went on several radio stations to admit that it was, in fact, him in the video?
How did Delaney’s lawyers end up making legal threats on premises which Delaney must have known to be false?
Did Delaney lie in an effort to cover up a story he feared would cause him embarrassment?
Delaney has not addressed this question in any of his public comments to date – with the possible exception of a line of bewildering obfuscation in the statement he issued on Tuesday night.
“I now understand that while I was travelling 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.”
This sentence, which appears to be almost totally devoid of meaning, sheds no light on how Delaney’s representatives ended up threatening media outlets on false premises. Neither does it account for the fact that FAI representatives contacted the website balls.ie as early as Saturday morning to ask them to remove a post linking to the video.
Rather than try to give a serious answer to the question of why the spurious legal threats were made, Delaney has campaigned about the unrelated issue of cyber-bullying, and attacked this newspaper’s soccer correspondent, Emmet Malone, claiming that he has been motivated by an “agenda”.
Delaney warned on Tuesday that the “backlash” against Malone was beginning. On Thursday, Delaney’s partner Emma English retweeted several messages criticising Malone and The Irish Times.
The essential argument is that if, in Delaney’s words, to be “an Irishman, singing an Irish song” is to attract controversy, the men of 1916 must be spinning in their graves. Whatever happened to an Irishman’s right to free expression?
That misses the crucial point, which is that the only ones trying to suppress free expression of anything were Delaney or the FAI, with the risible threats of legal action against media outlets who tried to report the truth.
Given the support he has received from those who feel that it can never be inappropriate for an Irishman to sing songs about the IRA, Delaney might now be cursing his own spinelessness.
What if he’d had the courage to stand up for the nationalist beliefs he has so often professed, instead of apologetically distancing himself from them?
What if Delaney had had the guts to say: “I’m an Irishman, I’m a patriot, and I’ll never apologise for loving my country”?
He would still have been criticised by those who believe that a public figure in his position should behave with more diplomacy and tact. But at least nobody would have been asking if he lied.
If we take his solicitor’s letter at face value, so desperate was he to prevent his performance reaching a wider audience, he was prepared to argue that black was white. “My client’s position is simply that it is not him singing in the video.”
Whatever Delaney’s statement of Tuesday night meant, he has yet to deny that his solicitors were instructed by him to insist that it was not him in the video.
So if that’s what happened, consider for a moment how reckless this move was.
Anyone who watched the video could see and hear with their own eyes and ears that the man singing the song was John Delaney. Delaney himself obviously knew that the man singing the song was John Delaney. He knew that there were other people in the pub who might confirm that the man singing the song was John Delaney.
And yet it appears he was prepared to instruct his lawyers to deny that it was him. If that was the case, it’s not just dishonest. It’s idiotic.
If the FAI board is “more than pleased” to have the author of such actions running the association, that’s their prerogative.
In the past, FAI politics were more volatile, with young wolves always alert to the smell of a wounded leader’s blood.
Twelve years ago Delaney himself was a young wolf – the bright, ambitious treasurer who first sprang to prominence dealing with the aftermath of Saipan, that greatest of all FAI fiascos.
After years of Delaney’s rule the board has acquired a more settled, senescent look. There’s nobody that reminds you of the younger Delaney. It’s difficult to imagine anyone within the association leading an internal heave against the chief executive.
It looks as though at some point in the past, John Delaney took note of Julius Caesar’s aside to Mark Antony:
“Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’nights.
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
he thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”
With no Cassius-types in the FAI mix, the greatest threat to Delaney’s continued leadership of the FAI remains Delaney himself.