Jay Donnelly will be seen as role model after Glentoran signing, warn feminists
Convicted footballer Jay Donnelly will be held up as a role model after he was signed by Glentoran, feminists in Northern Ireland have warned.
Donnelly, now 25, admitted sharing an indecent image of a child in 2016 and was sentenced to three months in prison.
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott said the sportsman deserved an opportunity to rebuild his life.
The Belfast Feminist Network said: “Like many people, we are appalled by the statement. We cannot forget that Jay Donnelly shared a private image of a minor without her consent.
“This is a crime regardless of the number of people he shared it with, or whether they were his friends, and the sexual act being consensual.”
They said it caused a 16-year-old girl severe distress and made her a target for harassment.
“We are disappointed that Jay will undoubtedly be held up as a role model when he is anything but.”
In June 2016, Donnelly took a photograph of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sex.
The photograph was sent to a friend and a WhatsApp group that included fellow Cliftonville players. It was subsequently leaked and appeared on social media.
Cliftonville terminated his contract.
Some Glentoran fans have said the signing was a “misstep”.
A club statement said: “Glentoran Football club believes that everyone deserves a chance to put mistakes behind them and Jay Donnelly is no different.
“The club acknowledges that he has both paid and atoned for his past mistakes and deserves the opportunity to rebuild his life and football career.
“We look forward to him making a positive contribution to the club, and to giving our supporters further reason to see the coming season as one of great opportunity for Glentoran.”
The footballer said he was humbled and had agreed to have counselling.
“I wish to express my complete remorse and regret at the actions that led to my conviction in 2019.
“Age and immaturity are not an excuse for an action that I now realise to have been very hurtful and damaging to the woman and her family.
“I have had several years now to reflect on my actions, and I can guarantee everyone both in football and society that I have learned from my mistake and it is something I would never consider repeating.”