Axed Ulster rugby player Craig Gilroy apologises for lewd text as Kingspan protest planned
Ulster rugby star Craig Gilroy has apologised after sending a WhatsApp message which was used as evidence in the Belfast rape trial.
The winger is subject to an internal review, and has been dropped for Friday night’s game away to Edinburgh, as the fallout from the case continues.
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A joint statement from Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said: “Ulster Rugby and the IRFU confirm that as Craig Gilroy is subject to an internal review, he will not be available for selection this weekend.”
Last night Gilroy (27) apologised “unreservedly”, saying his message had been “totally inappropriate”.
He said he was deeply sorry for the hurt it has caused.
It emerged after the rape trial of fellow Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were both cleared, that Gilroy had sent a lewd WhatsApp message.
Gilroy wrote: “Any sluts get f***ed?”
“Precious secrets,” Olding replied.
In a statement released via his Twitter account shortly before 11pm last night, Gilroy said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by the WhatsApp message I sent in June 2016.
“I would just like to clarify it was sent privately, not part of any group chat.
“Regardless, my comment was totally inappropriate and is not an accurate reflection of my beliefs nor Ulster Rugby’s values.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and in future will ensure the language I use in private or public better reflects who I am and what I stand for.
“I am sorry for the hurt my comment has caused. Craig.”
Gilroy has been capped 10 times by Ireland.
Mr Jackson (26) and 25-year-old Mr Olding walked free from Belfast Crown Court last week. A jury took less than four hours to unanimously acquit them of all charges following a trial spanning 42 days.
Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information, were also found not guilty.
The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have opened a review into the conduct of Mr Jackson and Mr Olding, but have not released any more details.
On Friday night Ulster play their first game since the conclusion of the trial, when they travel to Edinburgh.
They play their first home game at the Kingspan Stadium the following Friday against Welsh side Ospreys.
That game, on April 13, is set to be overshadowed by a protest. A rally in support of the woman at the centre of the rape trial is planned for outside the ground.
Organiser the Belfast Feminist Network says the demonstration is to “put pressure” on Ulster Rugby not to “re-employ” Jackson and Olding. The group, however, has not notified the police about the planned
The PSNI said: “Police would ask anyone intending to organise a public protest or demonstration to contact local police at the earliest opportunity.
“This allows officers to work with the organiser to ensure any demonstration is within the law, does not cause obstruction to footpaths or roadways, and that the health and safety of participants and members of the public are safeguarded.”
The Belfast Feminist Network posted online: “At our Belfast rally... last Thursday, we announced this was the start of a movement to change how our criminal justice system deals with sexual assault crimes. Following this, as the next step in this movement, we will gather outside the Kingspan stadium on the 13th of April when Ulster Rugby has their next game.
“We are gathering to put pressure on Ulster Rugby not to re-employ the accused in the Belfast rape trial, considering their reprehensible and misogynistic attitudes towards women as indicated in their WhatsApp messages. The misogyny in our society will not go unchallenged.”
The news came after it emerged the Attorney General’s investigation into an online comment made by a juror in the case was now a civil matter.
The person told a website she had been visited by police, advising her that it was not a criminal matter.
Last night an online petition calling on the IRFU to review the conduct of Jackson and Olding had reached 64,000 signatures.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood yesterday spoke about the case. He said if SDLP representatives had sent “social media messages” similar to that sent by the pair, they would be suspended.
“The party would move to suspend them and launch an investigation,” he said.
Mr Eastwood declined to comment on whether Ulster Rugby and the IRFU should allow the two men to play for their province or country again.
“Whether they play again is up to Ulster Rugby and the IRFU. It is important that politicians know their place in all of this — ours is to legislate,” Mr Eastwood added.