LONDONDERRY footballer James McClean has been accused of demonstrating a “remarkable lack of judgment” after going to visit a prison inmate.
The 23-year-old, who has turned his back on the Northern Ireland team, attended Magilligan Prison last week but in the end was unable to see the prisoner.
The Magilligan incident comes only weeks after the Sunderland winger suspended his online Twitter account after being subjected to sectarian abuse.
The former Northern Ireland U21 player – who has earned a call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad for next month’s European Championships – also recently claimed Catholics do not “feel at home” when playing for the Province.
According to the Sunday World newspaper, McClean was visiting inmate Sean Cruickshank, who was ordered to serve a minimum life sentence in 2009, along with an accomplice, for the murder of 19-year-old Liam Devlin.
The teenager was kicked and stomped to death during a vicious beating in the Creggan area of Londonderry in August 2007.
McClean’s agent was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for the Football Association of Ireland confirmed to the News Letter that the footballer did attend Magilligan Prison last week.
“James travelled to Magilligan Prison to visit a friend from Derry on Tuesday morning, accompanied by two other friends,” he said.
The spokesman said that McClean waited in the car while the two friends accompanying him completed their face-to-face visit.
“After their visit, they all left together,” the spokesman said.
Commenting on the jail reports, DUP MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell questioned the “poor judgment” shown by the Premier League footballer.
He said: “The more events, incidents, quotes, Twitter accounts and visits that James McClean engages in, I think the more people will be thinking it would be much better if James McClean the footballer stuck to playing football.
“I think that would be the best thing that he could do. He seems to be intent in a lot of things that he says and does in getting involved in controversy.
“A visit like this is going to obviously create dissension among family and friends of the person who died as a result of the incident.”
And Mr Campbell added: “I know his manager Martin O’Neill has spoken with him. I don’t know if he plans to speak with him again but he does demonstrate a remarkable lack of judgment.
“Most people would have thought he would have begun to learn from past incidents but it would seem not.”
McClean is currently with the Republic of Ireland squad ahead of the Euro 2012 championships. McClean qualifies to play for the Republic under the controversial eligibility ruling.
Earlier this month, he maintained he never felt comfortable representing his country of birth at under-age level.
He said: “I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home, seeing all those flags and hearing the songs and chants.”
The Irish FA expressed its disappointment at the remarks.