Ad calls for Jackson, Olding not to play for Ulster or Ireland again

Crowdfunded page paid for by 139 concerned rugby fans appears in ‘Belfast Telegraph’

 

An open letter to Ireland and Ulster rugby officials demanding that Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding never play for the sides again has appeared as an advertisement in a Northern Irish newspaper.

A group of 139 people, described as “concerned fans”, contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the advertisement in Friday’s Belfast Telegraph.

It states: “To the leadership of the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby...The content of social media exchanges involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was reprehensible.

“Such behaviour falls far beneath the standard that your organisations represent and as such we demand that neither of these men represents Ulster or Ireland now or at any point in the future.

“We expect an answer to this letter.”

It is signed off: “Yours, concerned fans.”

Last week at Belfast Crown Court Mr Olding (25) and Mr Jackson (26) were found not guilty of raping the same then 19-year-old woman at the latter’s home in 2016. Mr Jackson was also cleared of a charge of sexual assault.

Two other men - Blane McIlroy (26), who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison (25), who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information - were also acquitted.

Review process

Following the conclusion of the trial the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said they had noted the verdict and a review process was under way to address the futures of the two players who have been “relieved of all duties” since the legal process began.

In the aftermath of the trial ending there have been public demonstrations in cities across Ireland calling for reform of the criminal justice system, media reporting and sex education in schools.

There has been widespread anger over the Whatsapp exchanges between the players and their friends which came to light during the trial that included crude and sexually explicit language.

This prompted the advertisement.

One of those who set up the crowdfunding campaign to publish the ad, Anna Nolan, said it exceeded its €2,000 target within 36 hours.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: “A friend and I felt, like many people around the country do, that the WhatsApp exchanges as revealed in court goes against any moral standard of what can be considered acceptable behaviour.

“These players have a national and international platform and the IRFU and Ulster Rugby have a role to play in enforcing moral standards.”

A third player, Craig Gilroy is also subject to a review process by rugby chiefs over a private message he sent to Mr Olding that emerged during the course of the trial.

Separately, a protest rally has been organised on social media for outside Ulster’s home ground - the Kingspan stadium in Belfast - on April 13th, the evening the team will play Ospreys in the PRO14.

Former SDLP politician Conall McDevitt said in a Twitter post that he was “surrendering” his Ulster season ticket.

“ I’ll be back when players at club and provisional level and everyone in leadership gets the seriousness of recent events and acknowledges that wrong is wrong. Time to man up.”