Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville 'aware young woman has suffered' over Jay Donnelly indecent child image conviction

Club 'won't shirk responsibilities but mindful of knee-jerk action'

By Jonathan Bell

Cliftonville Football Club said it was "aware a young woman" had suffered after striker Jay Donnelly was convicted of distributing an indecent image of a child saying it felt it had a duty of care to both her and the footballer "who are potentially very vulnerable at this moment in time".

It vowed to take "strong action" and not "shirk its responsibilities" and hoped to offer players at all levels through the club education programmes to "warn of the dangers of social media".

"Cliftonville Football Club is acutely aware that a young woman has suffered because of Jay Donnelly's actions," the club said in a statement.

"Jay Donnelly is also very emotionally distressed because of his actions and the club feels it has a duty of care to both young people, who are potentially very vulnerable at this moment in time."

The north Belfast club, however, said it was mindful of "knee-jerk reactions" and would take its time and discuss with various groups the best approach to take but had made it clear to the player it did not condone his actions.

"Please be assured that Cliftonville will take strong action to protect the good name of the club and our supporters, but we are also mindful not to take knee-jerk action that could impact negatively on any injured parties in a potentially vulnerable state of mind," the club said.

There have been widespread calls for the club to act in light of the player's guilty plea in court last week. There were also plans for a protest at the club's home of Solitude ahead of this weekend's fixture which was called off after the club said Donnelly would take no part in Saturday's league game.

The footballer played in last Saturday's tie against Linfield the day after his court hearing. It is unclear whether Cliftonville knew of the guilty plea at the time.

The club maintained its silence until Friday - a week on from the hearing - on the matter saying Donnelly, of Ardilea Drive in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, would not play in today's game against Dungannon Swifts.

First team coach Neil Adair took to Twitter to say he had resigned from his role. While making no reference to the Donnelly situation, he said, given the circumstances, he felt he had no choice but to leave.

The club in its statement on Friday asked for patience while it considered the "very sensitive and delicate matter".

In a further statement on Saturday - just after 3pm - the club said it did not condone the behaviour of the player and Donnelly himself accepted he had to atone for his actions. It said it wanted to address the wider community about recent events.

The courts will deliberate before delivering justice, as will Cliftonville Football Club.

"Cliftonville Football Club is acutely aware that a young woman has suffered because of Jay Donnelly's actions," the club said.

"Jay Donnelly is also very emotionally distressed because of his actions and the club feels it has a duty of care to both young people, who are potentially very vulnerable at this moment in time.

"It was with this in mind that Cliftonville FC released a statement to our supporters yesterday, appealing to our fans and the media to bear with us as we seek a considered resolution.

"Please be assured that Cliftonville will take strong action to protect the good name of the club and our supporters, but we are also mindful not to take knee-jerk action that could impact negatively on any injured parties in a potentially vulnerable state of mind."

The statement continued: "The club welcomes dialogue with sincere and interested bodies who can offer guidance in handling a very sensitive matter in a firm but composed fashion.

"The club also hopes to engage with relevant bodies to offer education programmes to all players at our club, at all levels, to warn of the dangers of misuse of social media.

"We acknowledge there are people both within and without our club calling for immediate action, an understandable reaction to an emotive issue.

"Cliftonville Football Club will not shirk its responsibilities to both our members and the wider community, but we again appeal for this matter to be handled in a measured fashion.

"The courts will deliberate before delivering justice, as will Cliftonville Football Club."

Donnelly will return to court in January for sentencing.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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