By Jamie Bryson
Kyle Lafferty is alleged to have made a comment which some have found offensive. Conor McMenamin historically made a disgraceful comment when he said ‘up the RA’ (or words to that effect) in what seems to be a drunken social media video. In truth, it seemed to have been said with about as much conviction (as a teenager) as Nigel Farage’s utterance of the same phrase on some silly video message.
Nevertheless, the self-important suits in the IFA couldn’t resist an opportunity to show their ‘power’, and thus removed both Lafferty and McMenamin from the squad.
It seems therefore that the IFA have set a precedent whereby if anything any player, manager (or presumably IFA official) said or done (in the past or present) is deemed offensive then they are to be punished (I can only hope the IFA never hear one of my team talks, I’ll be banned not only in this life, but probably the next as well).
The problem with that is immediately obvious: who decides whether an incident, social media comment or other publication reaches the required threshold?
That judgement can only be a wholly subjective one, but the IFA have set such a broad scope- and thus dangerous precedent- that in truth, if we apply the IFA standard, all that is required to get a player deprived of the opportunity to play for their country (and if Conor McMenamin was truly an IRA supporter, he’d hardly be playing for Northern Ireland) is a social media storm, which as we all know can be easily contrived for agenda-driven purposes.
In May 2022 a number of persons in an Orange hall were videoed singing a vile and repulsive song mocking the death of Michaela McAreavey. No one could suggest that was anything other than repugnant. It was, and is, indefensible.
But I warned publicly at the time that we- as a society- were going down a dangerous road, cheered on by a frenzied nationalist social media mob, if we are to embark on Orwellian two-minutes hate against anyone deemed ‘guilty’ on social media, and if such persons are to be deprived of all due process.
That witch hunt spiralled out of control. Persons entirely uninvolved with any singing were subjected to a lynch mob, with employers contacted and bombarded until they were forced to dismiss (in many cases without following proper fair procedure) persons for no reason other than they had been targeted on social media, and the easier option was to bow to the mob rather than risk the business being targeted in an equally relentless manner.
I remember writing at the time that a dangerous precedent had been set, and that nationalists would eventually come to rue the day they started down this path. The 11th/12th July provided yet another opportunity for nationalist social media mobs to target persons and demand people lose their jobs etc, if opinions had been expressed that nationalist twitter found distasteful.
There was always going to be pay-back, and it was dutifully delivered when it came to the Feile. Young nationalists caught on camera singing offensive IRA songs. It was inevitable that the new standard would be deployed, and so it came to pass with employers being contacted, young people losing their jobs and being subjected to extensive unwanted social media attention. That was a deliberate demonstration that unionists can do the same thing to nationalists seven days a week. Ultimately, there is no winner. It is just tit-for-tat.
And so it continued. Kyle Lafferty was targeted and sent home over a yet unverified video. There was no due process, no disciplinary charge (more of which below), and certainly no common sense on the part of the IFA.
Such was the outrage by many in unionist communities at how Lafferty was treated, a historic video of Conor McMenamin surfaced. The IFA had already dived head-first down the slippery slope by their scandalous treatment of Lafferty , and so McMenamin had to be removed from the squad as well.
Reductio Ad Absurdum.
I find the views expressed by Conor McMenamin in the historic video repugnant. That will hardly come as a surprise. I have no idea what his political views are now (if any), and I imagine they will be worlds away from mine, but notwithstanding all that, it would be truly intellectually dishonest not to recognise how atrociously he (and Lafferty) have been treated by the incompetent IFA.
In the first instance, this was a historic video. He was punished for it at the time (close to a decade ago). That gives rise to the first issue: is the IFA now going to punish people repeatedly for the same ‘offence’, based upon whenever there is social media attention?
The next time there is a horror tackle that leads to outrage on twitter, why don’t the IFA dig up horror tackles from a decade previous and ‘re-punish’ the perpetrators in order to bolster the association’s social media credentials?
And common to both Lafferty and McMenamin, where was the due process?
The IFA disciplinary code applies to all members of the association. That includes (one would presume) international players. The code (which, knowing the IFA, they don’t even understand themselves) makes much of its commitment to the overriding objective of fairness (I am not sure whether McMenamin being punished twice for the same ‘offence’ is encompassed within the orbit of fairness).
But, notwithstanding that most self-evident point, the disciplinary code is supposed to create some form of structure and objective standard by which allegations of offending under the provisions of the Code can be dealt with.
And yet, it seems that was tossed out the window with the IFA Chief Executive (and I would have no doubt the President will have been meddling as ever), the manager and the other ‘suits’ deciding to adopt a kangaroo court and find both Lafferty and McMenamin ‘guilty’, and thus slap upon them the punitive sanction of being removed from the International squad.
Ah, “but the manger has discretion as to his squad” I hear some IFA pen-pusher proclaim. Yes, he does. But there is a difference between exercising that discretion in pursuit of his football judgement, and by-passing the IFA’s disciplinary process and exercising the managerial discretion as to his squad as a punishment.
Perhaps this is unsurprising because the application of the disciplinary code would cause the IFA all sorts of problems, and set a precedent whereby they will be convening every other day to regulate the viewpoints of all those who play at any level in Northern Ireland.
As we move forward, they should perhaps concentrate themselves on what players do whilst acting as players, and give up the attempted regulation of players/officials in their private time.
There were some suggestions Conor McMenamim would be ‘banned’ for the historic video. Surely not even the IFA could be that idiotic. The man was punished at the time by his then club. He can’t be punished again because someone dug up the same video years later.
In any event, on what basis would they discipline him? A disciplinary case can only be brought within 14 days of it coming to the attention of the complainant, in this instance the IFA. Given they knew about the video years ago, they are out of time- by nearly a decade. The test is when they became aware, not when something of which they were aware started trending again on Twitter.
We have reached the level of absurdity, which has spread beyond social media and employers, to the IFA. We got here quicker than I thought we would.
Those who started all this were warned they would rue the day. I wonder now do they see the error of their ways.