Saturday 16 December 2017

Irish soccer fans claim they were wrongly depicted online as 'drunken hooligans', court hears

Eight have issued defamation proceedings against News Group Newspapers Ltd
Eight have issued defamation proceedings against News Group Newspapers Ltd

Saurya Cherfi

A group of Irish soccer fans have claimed they were wrongly depicted on-line as “drunken hooligans” who participated in the FAI chief John Delaney’s Sopot shoes and socks incident during Euro 2012.

Eight of them have issued defamation proceedings against News Group Newspapers Ltd after a picture of them appeared on the Irish Sun website, allegedly associating them with an unrelated article of other fans carousing in Poland and carrying Delaney head high back towards his hotel.

Barrister Julia Leo told the Circuit Civil Court that Darragh Agnew, of Dalkey Rock, Arburgh Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin, and seven of his friends appeared in the Irish Sun website picture along with an article under the headline “FAI boss Delaney stripped by fans.” 

Ms Leo said the photograph, which showed Agnew and his friends in a group picture with Delaney, had been taken in a pub several hours before the shoe incident on the streets of Sopot.

In defamation proceedings issued in June 2013, exactly a year after the Sopot incident, Agnew and his friends claimed they had no act nor part in the incident which, they alleged, involved another group of fans altogether who had stripped Delaney of his socks and shoes and had drunk alcohol from one of his shoes.

In those proceedings they had claimed they had been depicted as:  “drunken louts and hooligans at the centre of a loutish mob that had drunkenly lifted the FAI Chief executive.”

The other group was described by the current plaintiffs as out-of-control boors who publically assaulted and ridiculed a respected senior public figure in the Irish soccer community.

Agnew claimed he and his friends were clearly identifiable in the on-line photograph and the article which accompanied it, they claimed, should not have been associated with them. They alleged the article detailed how a rowdy gang had lifted Delaney off his feet and onto their shoulders. 

Agnew, a financial services administrator, claims his standing with his employer had been damaged by the allegations which had continued to be a running joke in his workplace.

He claimed his family, friends and colleagues had been wrongly led to believe he had been centrally involved in the incident. 

Today Ms Leo told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that service of the proceedings was now out of time and Agnew, Ross Zambra, Kevin Brophy, Darragh Kirk, Mark O’Connor, Richard O’Farrell and Kevin Daly applied to have their Civil Bills renewed, which the court granted.

Judge Linnane said another plaintiff, Peter McGee, was out of time in issuing proceedings, but would now have to do so on notice to News Group Newspapers Ltd.

Today’s applications were taken in the motions court which meant none of the plaintiffs or the proposed defendant had to be present and Judge Linnane made her orders in the absence of all of them apart from Ms Leo and the solicitor for the plaintiffs.

Ms Leo had told the court there had been correspondence between the plaintiffs and the defendant.

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