Belfast Telegraph

Lions legend McBride slammed by rape crisis centres for 'dismissing' actions of Jackson and Olding

by robin schiller

Former Ireland rugby international Willie John McBride has faced strong criticism after calling for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to be allowed to play for club and country again.

The 77-year-old, who captained the British and Irish Lions team in the 1970s, said that both men had learnt a "severe lesson" during a traumatic couple of months.

"I think it is time they got back to doing what they do best and that is playing rugby," Mr McBride told RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

"As far as I am concerned I think they have learned their lesson.

"All of them have issued their regrets and sadness about the affair and their apologies."

Jackson (26) and his 25-year-old Ireland and Ulster team-mate Olding were unanimously acquitted of rape last month.

Mr McBride, president of the official Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club, does not know either player personally.But he described their treatment post-verdict as "unfair".

His comments have drawn criticism from rape crisis agencies, with Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, saying that he missed the legitimate reasons for concern among 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," she said. "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." Concerns have also been raised by the director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Cliona Saidlear, who said questions needed to be asked if Mr McBride's comments and "dismissal" of the players' actions represent the wider views of the rugby world.

"The first question that has to be asked is: is Willie John McBride an outlier or is he a representative of the rugby world?

"His dismissal of everything as 'it's not that bad', of regret, it really shows that he doesn't comprehend what has gone on here.

"Willie John McBride talked about how he hopes we go back to the old days - I certainly hope that isn't the case."

Meanwhile, a petition calling on the IRFU to publish a review into the behaviour of Jackson and Olding has so far been signed by almost 70,000 people. The players have been relieved of their playing duties pending the outcome of the review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.

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