Belfast Telegraph

Paddy Jackson excessively punished, claims ex-Ireland rugby captain

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson
Fergus Slattery

By John Morley

An ex-Ireland rugby captain has said he believes that former Ulster star Paddy Jackson is being excessively punished.

Fergus Slattery said Diageo's decision to terminate their contract with London Irish this week was excessive.

Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape in a high-profile trial in Belfast last year, and Slattery believes the players should be allowed to continue their playing careers.

Jackson (27) moved to France after his contract was cancelled by the IRFU in the fallout from the trial. The decision was linked to social media and text messages revealed in the rape trial.

Jackson joined London Irish earlier this year after Perpignan's relegation from the Top 14 - the main division of French club rugby. Slattery finds the backlash against Jackson a year later "bizarre".

"Because the guys were deemed innocent, I was very, very disappointed to find out that Diageo were pulling out from London Irish," said Slattery, speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One.

"I still do think that Paddy Jackson is getting too much punishment." Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan joined the debate, saying that "they have paid their price but you'd just wonder now was the price bigger than they thought".

"If he leaves London Irish will any club touch him?

"His career could be in tatters here," he said.

Fergus Finlay, chairman for the Stop Out-Of-Control Drinking campaign, which is funded by Diageo, disagreed with Slattery, saying that the signing of Jackson was "not consistent with Diageo's values".

Finlay went on to say that Irish Rugby was "a vehicle for drinking" and that Jackson was still facing consequences for his actions because of his WhatsApp messages rather than the trial itself.

Finlay was disgusted by the "incredible attitude towards women" in the "really laddish" WhatsApp messages and the "horrendous relationship between the events of that night and alcohol".

"I think a decision to disassociate [Diageo] with anything to do with the events of that night is a correct decision."

Olding currently plays for French club side Brive.

Following the trial, then Ulster Rugby chief executive Shane Logan said he “could not envisage” Jackson or Olding playing for Ulster or Ireland again.

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