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Paddy may find future is always subject to the court of public opinion

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson
David Kelly

By David Kelly

For Paddy Jackson, it seems, every step he takes into his future only illustrates how deeply imprinted the trails of his past remain.

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The coincidence of rehabilitation and redemption remains elusive; once banished from this island by his professional employers, a year in France might have seemed, for some at least, an appropriate period of exile.

Now though, after London Irish confirmed what this newspaper revealed several months ago, his move to the UK has once more re-ignited a torch of emotions that continue to swirl 14 months on from the Belfast rape trial.

Most are familiar reiterations of an outrage that, regardless of the former international's legal acquittal, remains opposed to any absolution from moral blame.

And not all are Irish voices; social media also unveiled strident opposition from the club's London base too.

How lasting and meaningful remains to be seen.

There are those who will assert that it may still be possible to afford him an opportunity to rebuild his career - and until now rugby has been the main definer of his existence.

Allowing him to pursue his career should not be equated with a dismissal of the events that led him here.

Although the IRFU - who revoked his contract in the midst of sustained social condemnation and pressure from sponsors - subsequently indicated they were open to his repatriation, the incoming Ulster CEO, Jon Petrie, was much more definitive when discussing the issue.

"I don't see that we should be re-opening old wounds," he said, comments that seemed prescient if much of the online reaction yesterday is taken as being representative. However, one might caution against social media as representing an accurate reflection of opinion.

Despite being exonerated in a court of law, Jackson's employer decided he had still brought the game into disrepute under the terms of contracts that were to run until June 2019.

Both of these facts still remain extant to this day; it is people's opinions of how these facts were arrived at which differ, and will seem to do so for some time, perhaps long after Jackson plays his final professional game of rugby.

Ireland have moved on without him, and will continue to do so. Jackson will move on too, even if many do not wish him to.

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