Belfast Telegraph

Advert published calling on Ireland and Ulster to ditch Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

By Brett Campbell

More than 100 people have taken out a newspaper advert to demand that rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding never play for Ulster or Ireland again.

The advert - published in today’s Belfast Telegraph - says the content of social media exchanges between the pair, who were cleared last week of raping a woman, was reprehensible.

It is carried in today’s Telegraph and follows an online crowd-funding campaign by 139 members of the public.

Mr Jackson (26) and Mr Olding (25) were both cleared of rape last week. Mr Jackson was also cleared of a charge of sexual assault.

A jury took less than four hours to unanimously find them not guilty of all charges following a trial spanning 42 days.

The advert in today's paper

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 found not guilty.

During the trial a number of WhatsApp messages, involving explicit sexual terminology, were used as evidence

The trial heard that Olding allegedly wrote on WhatsApp “We are all top shaggers” and “There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.”

He later added: “It was like a merry-go-around at a carnival”.

It was stated in court that Mr Jackson replied on the same WhatsApp messaging service: “There was a lot of spit.”

Today’s advert is addressed: “To the leadership of the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby”.

It states: “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.”

The advert is signed, “Yours, concerned fans.”

It adds: “This advert was crowdfunded by 139 members of the public to send a message that can’t be ignored.”

Anna Nolan helped to set up the crowdfunding campaign to publish the open letter. It exceeded its target within 36 hours. 

“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,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

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

The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have launched a review into the conduct of the two men — but officials have not released any details of its make-up, scope or timetable.

Ms Nolan said those in positions of authority within the family friendly sport should take note of a “wave of public anger” which has nothing to do with the not guilty verdict.

“The language they [Jackson and Olding] used, which is an undisputed fact, shows a deep level of disrespect for women,” she said.

“We expect the standards that IRFU and Ulster Rugby purport to hold to be enforced — it is important that all current and future sports stars realise that this behaviour is beyond the pale.”

Speaking on Monday, Ulster coach Jono Gibbes said “I literally have no idea” when asked if Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding remained available for selection.

The club has resisted calls to make public its code of conduct for players.

Belfast Telegraph

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