Belfast Telegraph

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding sacked by IRFU and Ulster Rugby following internal review

Paddy Jackson said he was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

Ger Keville and Brendan Fanning

The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have confirmed the departure of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding following an internal review.

The review following the Belfast rape trial concluded last Wednesday and the players were informed then of the decision.

An IRFU and Ulster Rugby statement read: "Following a review, conducted in the aftermath of recent court proceedings, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have revoked the contracts of Patrick Jackson and Stuart Olding with immediate effect.

"In arriving at this decision, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby acknowledge our responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game: Respect, Inclusivity and Integrity.

"It has been agreed, as part of this commitment, to conduct an in-depth review of existing structures and educational programmes, within the game in Ireland, to ensure the importance of these core values is clearly understood, supported and practised at every level of the game."

A jury of eight men and three women found Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, unanimously not guilty of rape after deliberating for three hours and 45 minutes after a marathon nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

All jurors also acquitted Jackson of sexual assault.

Two other men, Blane McIlroy (26) and Rory Harrison (25) were also unanimously acquitted of lesser charges connected to the case.

2018-04-14_new_40096328_I4.png
Paddy Jackson

Jackson expressed his disappointment.

In a statement to the Press Association he said: "I am deeply disappointed about the outcome of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby's internal review.

"However, I recognise that my behaviour has fallen far short of the values expected of me as an international player, a role model for the game of rugby and as a son and a brother.  I am truly sorry.

"Since I was a young boy it was my ambition to play for Ulster and Ireland and I am extremely proud, privileged and honoured to have done so. It is therefore with great sadness and regret but with many cherished memories that I leave that behind.

"I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this process. I have taken great strength from that support. I'd also like to thank Ulster and Irish rugby for the opportunities that they provided for me and I wish them, and all my former team mates, every success.

"My focus in the months and years ahead will be on rebuilding the trust placed in me by people throughout Ulster and Ireland."

bpanews_560dfcda-5255-42ff-b7de-41a7b838bce8_embedded235736766
Stuart Olding was also acquitted (Niall Carson/PA)

Stuart Olding also issued a statement expressing his regret.

It said: "It is with regret that I have been informed that the IRFU have decided to revoke my contract.

"As I said outside court following my acquittal, I am and will always be fiercely proud of having played for my province and country.

"I very much wished to continue to have the opportunity to represent them.

"Regrettably, influences outside of my contractual arrangement have made it impossible for that to happen.

"I said outside court that the Stuart Olding that you read about in the trial is not the real Stuart Olding.

"The treatment that I have received since my acquittal, both fair and unfair, has made me even more determined to prove myself.

"With the support of my family and friends I shall seek new challenges elsewhere.  I bear no one any ill will.

"I am very sorry that this day has come to pass.

"To those who have supported me through these last 20 months and especially the fans who continue to support me, I thank you all."

pe_00724910.jpg
Craig Gilroy

Fellow Ireland and Ulster star Craig Gilroy, who was not involved in the trial, has been disciplined for sending one of the offensive messages that was outlined to the court.

He had already been made unavailable for selection and will now face a further two-week suspension.

A statement from the governing bodies said: "Following a review of a text message sent by Craig Gilroy, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have sanctioned him, following a disciplinary process in accordance with the terms of his contract.

"Craig will be unavailable for team selection until 26th April 2018."

The Ulster Rugby and IRFU review focused on a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations revealed during the trial involving the players and their friends.

A number of the club's main sponsors expressed concern at the fallout following the court case and called on it to conclude its review swiftly.

This week Ulster sponsor Bank of Ireland issued the following statement to Independent.ie.

"As a sponsor of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland is highly concerned regarding the serious behaviour and conduct issues which have emerged as a result of the recent high profile trial. The Bank has formally conveyed these concerns to the CEO of Ulster Rugby.

"It is of paramount importance to Bank of Ireland that our sponsorship activity aligns with and supports our core values, and reflects positively on Bank of Ireland through association."

Ulster_rugby_rape-protest-006.jpg
A rally calling for Ulster Rugby to address the behaviour of players takes place ahead of the club's first home match since the Belfast rape trial ended. The demonstration, entitled 'Stamp out Misogyny at Ulster Rugby', was organised by Belfast Feminist Network took place before the team plays Welsh side Ospreys. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Around 250 people staged a protest outside Ulster Rugby's stadium on Friday night ahead of the team's first home game since the two players were acquitted of rape.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Kingspan Stadium in east Belfast ahead of Ulster's Pro14 match against the Ospreys to express solidarity with the woman at the centre of the case and call for changes to how complainants in rape trials are treated by the criminal justice system.

They also called for action against what they claim is a misogynistic culture within rugby.

The picket was organised by the Belfast Feminist Network.

An intense debate on the players' future has been played out in newsprint and online since the verdicts.

Campaigners calling for Jackson and Olding to be axed took out a prominent newspaper advert last week.

Supporters demanding their reinstatement followed suit with their own newspaper advert this week.

Thousands of people on both sides of the argument have also signed competing online petitions reflecting their views.

Irish Independent

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph