Cliftonville faces protest threat by women’s group over child image player
Women's groups in Belfast have called for Cliftonville Football Club to sack player Jay Donnelly after he pleaded guilty to distributing an indecent image of a child.
The Belfast Feminist Network (BFN) criticised Cliftonville for playing Donnelly, and said they would stage a protest if the club fielded him in a game tomorrow.
The 23-year-old had a count of taking or making an indecent photograph withdrawn when he appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court last Friday.
The day after his guilty plea to the other charge, Cliftonville picked him for a Danske Bank Premiership game against Linfield at Windsor Park.
The BFN said the club's decision "was a total insult to every victim of the kind of exploitative sexual crime that Donnelly has been convicted of".
A statement from the BFN and Reclaim the Night added: "The feminist movement has been aware of this case for some time, but we have been unable to comment while the criminal proceedings were ongoing.
"Donnelly's behaviour was reprehensible, and his conviction reflects this.
"We are completely disgusted by the actions of Cliftonville FC in continuing to play Donnelly after he was charged with such serious sexual crimes.
"Donnelly was not suspended when he was charged. His contract was renewed in May of this year, months after the Public Prosecution Service had decided to continue with the prosecution of this case. "
The statement also stressed that the attitude of Cliftonville showed a total disregard for the victim and "exposes an acceptance of misogyny and predatory sexual behaviour".
"It would appear that the club have been more concerned with their own performance than the wellbeing of girls and young women within their community," it added.
"If they continue to play such a high-profile player as Donnelly now that he has been convicted, they send a dangerous message to the many young fans for whom their players are supposed to be role models."
Cliftonville play Dungannon Swifts at their home ground, Solitude, tomorrow and the BFN and Reclaim the Night said the club should expect protests if Donnelly is picked.
"We will continue to protest until Cliftonville FC take action to remove a sex offender from their line-up," they added.
Donnelly, from Ardilea Drive in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, is due to be sentenced in January.
Cliftonville have failed to respond to several requests for comment on the matter. It is unknown whether the club was aware of the guilty plea before last Saturday's game.
It was unaware that Donnelly had been charged in the week before he played against Carrick Rangers on November 3 last year.