Rape crisis centre criticises McBride support for rugby players

Supporters of Ulster and Ireland rugby stars acquitted of rape take out newspaper ad

Former Ireland rugby international Willie John McBride has called on Ulster Rugby to reinstate Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson. Audio: RTÉ Radio One

 

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has criticised former Ireland rugby international Willie John McBride for calling for the reinstatement of Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson after they were found not guilty of rape.

The Centre said the calls by Mr McBride and other rugby follows for the players’ reinstatement “entirely missed the legitimate reason for concern by so many people.”

“They don’t seem to recognise that the behaviour of some of the most prominent rugby players in the country was extraordinarily disrespectful and failed to take any account of the humanity or dignity of the young woman involved,” said Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Centre.

“This is a matter which the IRFU and Ulster Rugby must address as they have said they will do, not only in relation to those players but in relation to any culture within rugby that might in any way condone or encourage that behaviour.”

McBride, who captained Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, said on Wednesday the case had been a “very sad affair” and that “for this bunch of young people when alcohol came in common sense went out”.

“Ultimately alcohol was at the base of all this. That needs to be looked at.”

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were found not guilty last month of raping the then 19-year-old woman in south Belfast in June 2016.

Both men have been “relieved of all duties” with Ulster and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) since the legal process began. After the trial concluded, the IRFU and Ulster said they had noted the verdicts and an internal review was being conducted.

“They have come through a very difficult few months,” Mr McBride told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke. “They were tried on TV, they were tried in the press. They were found not guilty, now people are saying get out (of rugby), that’s totally unfair.”

Mr McBride said he felt sorry for the complainant too, but that she had not endured the same exposure in the press.

“These young people are going to regret this for the rest of their lives.”

He added: “I think they’ve learned their lesson. They issued an apology. It’s time to get back to doing what they do best, which is play rugby.”

Mr McBride said he did not know the players personally and hoped that some season ticket holders did not go through with threats not to attend games if the players are reinstated.

‘Get carried away’

He said it was very easy when playing international rugby “to get carried away by the hype”.

He said he hoped that sponsors would see that the players had made restitution and will not behave like that again.

“They are not bad young men.”

Meanwhile, an advertisement calling for Jackson and Olding to resume their roles “for both club and country” appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday.

The ad urges the IRFU and Ulster panel determining the men’s futures not to bow to “the court of social media”.

Last week an advertisement in the Belfast Telegraph, crowdfunded by “concerned fans”, described the men’s derogatory and offensive WhatsApp messages about women that emerged during the trial as “reprehensible”, and said they should never play for Ulster or Ireland again.

The latest advertisement also addressed to the leadership of the IRFU and Ulster and claimed to be from “real fans standing up for the Ulstermen”.

“What is reprehensible is the extent of the social media backlash aimed at incriminating men unanimously acquitted of any crime,” the ad published in the Belfast Telegraph said.

“We are fed up with this cyber persecution.

“As Ulster and Irish rugby fans, we want these innocent men reinstated and rightly allowed to resume their roles for both club and country.

“The IRFU should take note of the silent majority and not bow to the court of social media.

“We do not expect an answer to this letter, but we do expect them to play.”