Belfast Telegraph

Football chief sorry for IRA song

The chief executive of Ireland's football association has apologised after being recorded singing a ballad about an IRA hunger striker.

John Delaney was filmed last week singing the song Joe McDonnell in a Dublin pub after Ireland beat the USA 4-1 at the Aviva Stadium.

Written by republican balladeers the Wolfe Tones, it chronicles the 1981 hunger strikes in Northern Ireland through the eyes of the former Provo who died on the prison protest.

Football Association of Ireland chief Mr Delaney said he was filmed in a "sly way" and would never have sung the song in the Bath Pub in Sandymount if he had known he was being recorded.

"Joe McDonnell is a song that has been sang in my presence and I have chipped in and sang on a number of occasions in the past," he told State broadcaster RTE radio.

"I'm 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."

Mr Delaney added that he did not believe in every word of the song.

"There are many songs we all sing that we don't believe in every lyric on. I don't believe in many lyrics that are in that song," he added.

Joe McDonnell was the fifth hunger striker to die during the H-block protest, after joining the fast to replace his close friend Bobby Sands.

He had been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in 1977 for firearms offences.

Mr Delaney said: "What I will say is if the song offended anybody, of course I am sorry."

The football body boss was recorded singing the song as others looked on in the pub, the same night England manager Roy Hodgson apologised for English fans singing anti-IRA songs during their match with Scotland.

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