Labour Senator apologises for Belfast rape trial tweet

Aodhán Ó Riordáin says post not intended to suggest the acquitted men were guilty

Paddy Jackson had said he would sue Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Riordáin for defamation. Photograph: PA

Paddy Jackson had said he would sue Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Riordáin for defamation. Photograph: PA


Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Riordáin has apologised for a tweet he posted in the wake of the Belfast rape trial and has said it was not designed to suggest the men involved were guilty.

The original tweet, posted 11 days ago on March 28th, the day of the verdict, had praised the complainant at the centre of the case and questioned the verdict. He later deleted the message.

In a post on Monday, he said his tweet “was not designed or intended to suggest that either Paddy Jackson or any of the other accused men were guilty or that the jury got it wrong”.

“ I apologise for any suggestion to the contrary. I accept that I was not privy to all the evidence put before the jury during the trial. I will not be making any further comment.”

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson had said he intended to sue Mr Ó Riordáin for defamation after the original tweet.

Mr Jackson was acquitted of rape and sexual assault at Belfast Crown Court in March in a unanimous verdict by the jury of eight men and three women. His teammate Stuart Olding was cleared of rape, Blane McIlroy was cleared of exposure and Rory Harrison was cleared of withholding information from police.

‘Prejudicial excesses’

Following Mr Ó Riordáin’s original post, KRW Law, on behalf of Mr Jackson said: “On Wednesday, 28th March our client Patrick Jackson was unanimously acquitted by a jury at Belfast Crown Court on unsubstantiated charges.

“During the course of the trial our client and his co-accused regularly sought the protection of the court against the prejudicial excesses of social media.

“Despite Wednesday’s resounding declaration Patrick now finds himself resorting to the civil courts in order to seek protective action.

“Regrettably, KRW Law has had no option but to issue notice of intention to sue Senator Aodhán Ó Riordáin for defamatory comments made by him in the immediate aftermath of the jury’s verdict.”

Senior Associate Marie Hans of KRW said: “I can confirm we have issued pre-action libel correspondence against a named senator in the Republic of Ireland. The legal action relates to a tweet sent to a number of other persons before it was eventually taken down.”

She added: “We will not hesitate to repeat similar legal action against anyone, who deliberately or otherwise, sees fit to attack our client. We are examining carefully every item of social media commentary which seeks to challenge the integrity of the jury’s full endorsement of our client’s innocence. High court proceedings will issue shortly in both Belfast and Dublin”.