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Delaney says legal threat against newspaper was a 'misunderstanding'

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FAI Chief Executive John Delaney with his partner Emma English.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney with his partner Emma English.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney with his partner Emma English.

FAI chief executive John Delaney has said legal threats sent to a newspaper ordering it not to carry a video on its website which showed him singing a republican ballad in a crowded pub was a "misunderstanding".

The controversial football figure has been criticised by world football's governing body FIFA after he initially appeared to deny that he was the individual filmed singing the song 'Joe McDonnell' about the IRA hunger-striker after the Republic of Ireland's victory over the USA last week.

In radio interviews yesterday, Mr Delaney admitted he did feature in the video and said he was "sorry" if he had caused offence. He repeated his apology in a statement posted on the FAI's website yesterday evening.

"The recording was made without the knowledge of anyone in attendance (and) was made to try to construe some link between me and a non-peaceful approach to life which I reject completely."

He added: "I have said in the past that I come from a nationalist background. My grandfather fought in the War of Independence and the Civil War but both my family and I reject violence completely and are 100pc aligned to the democratic process which has brought about so much progress in Ireland."

News organisations, including the Irish Independent and 'The Guardian' newspaper, had contacted the FAI about the video. However, the UK newspaper says it was issued with a legal threat not to run a story as it was not Mr Delaney who featured in the video.

Speaking last night, head of sport at 'The Guardian' Ian Prior said the newspaper received a letter from a law firm stating it was not Mr Delaney in the video and that they would face legal action if they ran a story about it.

Emotional

An FAI spokesperson last night would not say who asked the law firm to contact the newspaper.

The law firm did not respond to queries by the Irish Independent last night. Irish sports website Balls.ie also said it was told by the FAI it was not Mr Delaney in the video.

Mr Delaney became emotional while being interviewed on Newstalk yesterday, describing the "disgusting and vile" insults made against his partner, Emma English, on the online fan forum You Boys In Green.

"It is very upsetting because you want to protect the woman you love and I love her very, very deeply," he said.

The backers of the website later apologised to Ms English and offered to make a donation to a charity of her choice.

In his statement last night, Mr Delaney said: "Yesterday, during the day, I was travelling back with my partner from abroad and trying to deal primarily with the serious cyber-bullying issues facing her.

"I now understand that while I was travelling and un-contactable there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened which led to a misunderstanding," he said.

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce, former president of Northern Ireland's Irish Football Association, condemned Mr Delaney's actions saying: "I am totally shocked and saddened that someone I have known for many years should get involved in such stupidity.

"This type of behaviour from the chief executive of the FAI has to be condemned."

Irish Independent