Rape trial fallout: Ulster Rugby's silence about fate of Jackson and Olding criticised
Ulster Rugby chiefs were last night challenged to break their silence on the futures of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.
Team coach Jono Gibbes faced the media yesterday for the first time since the rape trial ended in both men being acquitted, but bosses banned questions on the issue.
The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have launched a review into the conduct of the pair, but have not released any details of its make-up, scope or timetable.
Pressure on officials increased after it emerged that winger Craig Gilroy (27) was the sender of a WhatsApp message revealed in court that used offensive terms about women.
"Any sluts get f***ed?", he wrote.
"Precious secrets," Olding replied.
It's understood that Gilroy is still available for selection to play for Ulster.
But at the Press conference yesterday, Gibbes said he did not know whether Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were also available for selection.
He said: "I've got literally no idea.
"It hasn't been communicated to me and there's a process going on at the moment in Dublin that's at the highest level of the union (the Irish Rugby Football Union) and I can't really comment on anything more than that."
Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said: "Ulster Rugby and IRFU should have an awful a lot to say right now to save their reputation and yet they are silent.
"Those messages were repulsive and Ulster Rugby have to decide if they are willing to take a stand against blatant misogyny or not.
"I take it personally because I'm a woman.
"These comments were about me and about people like me.
"Any public employer would deal with this pretty swiftly.
"And I don't see why Ulster Rugby is any different.
"People need to be reassured, but they need to do more to educate players and young people to make sure this never happens again."
Ms Bailey also called on Ulster Rugby to be more transparent about the standards of behaviour it expects from its players.
"The silence from senior officials is raising suspicion as to whether or not a code of conduct even exists," she said.
"If it does, it has be published and made public.
"Every other organisation has one.
"So I don't see why Ulster Rugby should be any different."
Ulster Rugby said: "A review process in relation to this matter is under way and it would be inappropriate to comment on any matter pertaining to that process until it is completed."
An online petition calling on the IRFU to publish its review into the conduct of the Ireland and Ulster stars had reached almost 60,000 signatures by last night.
While praising Ulster Rugby for investing money to create a "family and gender friendly atmosphere" in the redeveloped Kingspan Stadium, Ms Bailey also warned that failing to take a stand on this issue will undermine the progress it has made.
The South Belfast MLA stressed that the questions now facing Ulster Rugby had nothing to do with the verdict of the trial, which ended with Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding being acquitted of rape.
"They were found not guilty and that cannot be disputed," she said.
"But Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union must now decide if the attitudes of their players, as revealed in undisputed evidence in court, is acceptable."
On Thursday Mr Jackson's legal team said defamation proceedings were being launched against Irish senator Aodhan O'Riordain over social media comments he made about the rugby international's acquittal.
The Twitter post was subsequently deleted.
However, news of the legal action sparked a social media backlash.