#IBelieveHer protesters react to Ulster’s sacking of Olding and Jackson

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Kayleigh Dray
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Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been sacked from the Ulster and Ireland rugby teams. 

On Wednesday 28 March, Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were unanimously cleared of raping a female student at a house party two years ago.

However, as’s Elle Griffiths previously pointed out, while the men denied any charges of rape, there were some facts that were never disputed by either legal team throughout the trial.

“The complainant, a teenager at the time, left the party in hysterical tears, bleeding profusely after a sexual encounter with two of the men,” wrote Griffiths.

“A subsequent medical examination discovered her to have a tear in her vagina. The men exchanged joking messages in a WhatsApp group the next day, referring to her as ‘loose’ and a ‘slut’, while commending themselves for being ‘top shaggers’ and remarking that whatever happened that night was like ‘a merry-go-round at a carnival’.”

Shortly after the not guilty verdict was issued at the Ulster rape trial, the hashtag #IBelieveHer quickly began trending on Twitter. And, across both sides of the Irish border, thousands of people have marched “in solidarity with the complainant”.

Now, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby have confirmed they have revoked the contracts of the two players following an internal review into their conduct.

“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,” they said in a statement.

“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.”

Both players have released statements detailing their regret and disappointment at having their contracts revoked.

Reacting to the news, the Belfast Feminist Network (BFN), which organised a demonstration outside the home of Ulster Rugby last week, said they viewed the decision to dismiss the pair as “a victory for all the people who joined with us to say that they could not accept anything less than full accountability”.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the group said: “We are pleased to hear that those players who have exposed themselves as misogynistic will no longer be representing Ulster Rugby.

“We see this as a victory for all the people who joined with us to say that they could not accept anything less than full accountability.”

However, the group was quick to add that there is still more work to be done if Ulster Rugby “wants to convince us that they will take action against sexism and ensure things like this do not happen again”.

“As we made clear at our rally Ulster Rugby has work to do if it wants to convince us that they will take action against sexism and ensure things like this do not happen again,” said the Belfast Feminist Network.

“We look forward to hearing how they intend to do this.”

The BFN is calling for reforms to the criminal justice system in cases of alleged sexual assaults, including changes to media reporting, and wants an education programme on “consent and toxic masculinity” to be taught in schools.

It also wants “adequately resourced support services for victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse”.

If you, or anyone you know, wants support or information regarding rape or sexual assault, please visit the Rape Crisis website here or the Women’s Aid website here.

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.