Belfast Telegraph

Creator of advert aimed at rugby chiefs praises 'positive' response

By Claire O'Boyle

The woman behind a full-page crowdfunded advert calling on Ulster Rugby and the IRFU to stop Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding from playing for the Ireland or Ulster teams again has said she hopes the move has formed part of the "debate".

Anna Nolan (34) set up a crowdfunding page following the unanimous not-guilty verdicts delivered to the sportsmen last week after a high-profile trial.

Both men were acquitted of raping the same woman at a house party at Mr Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016 by a jury of eight men and three women.

It followed a case that lasted nine weeks at Belfast Crown Court.

The jury took three hours and 45 minutes to complete its deliberations.

Mr Jackson (26) was also cleared by the jury of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy (26) and Rory Harrison (25) were found not guilty of charges against them relating to the same incident.

Mr McIlroy was found not guilty of exposure and Mr Harrison was cleared of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Ms Nolan, who lives in Glasgow but is originally from Belfast, followed the case online.

She said: "I came up with the idea with a friend of mine after the verdict.

"It was a very specific idea to get an ad placed in the Belfast Telegraph to send a message to the IRFU and Ulster Rugby. I hope we did that.

"We have no plans to do anything else, but we hope what we did has contributed to the debate."

Ms Nolan, who said she had "never had the pleasure" of going to watch an Ulster or Ireland rugby match and considers herself a football fan first, works for social change.

"The response we've had to the ad has been largely positive on Twitter and through family and friends," she said.

"We have had two further donations today, bringing us £135 above the cost of the ad.

"We will be donating the excess to Women's Aid NI."

The advert, printed in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, addressed the leadership of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.

Funded by 139 members of the public, it read: "The content of the social media exchanges involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was reprehensible.

"Such behaviour falls far beneath the standards 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. Yours, concerned fans."

In response, a spokesperson for the clubs said: "The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have confirmed that a review process is underway."

Yesterday, Mr Jackson issued a statement expressing shame and regret about the events at the heart of the recent court case.

Reacting to his comments, Ms Nolan said: "His statement is to be welcomed. However, it doesn't negate the need for consequences."

Belfast Telegraph

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