Protest held ahead of Ulster match following acquittals

Protests have been held before Ulster’s PRO14 game against Ospreys on Friday, after Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted of rape.

The demonstrators displayed messages to “stamp out” misogyny and sexism in sport and they are calling on rugby and other sporting bodies to address what they claim are prevailing misogynistic attitudes.

The action outside the Kingspan Stadium is part of a wider movement that has sprung up across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after the acquittal of the Ireland internationals last month.

Jackson and his Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted at Belfast Crown Court of raping the same woman at a party at Jackson’s south Belfast home in June 2016. Jackson was also found not guilty of sexual assault.

“This was never my intention and I will always regret the events of that evening.”

The fly-half, capped by Ireland 25 times, apologised unreservedly for engaging in “degrading and offensive” Whatsapp conversations about the incident.

Jackson also said public criticism of his behaviour was “fully justified” and he expressed determination to return to the values and principles that guided his upbringing, in particular the importance of respect.

The Belfast Feminist Group, who organised the demonstration outside the stadium said it was a positive protest aimed at changing attitudes.

One hundred fans bought an advert in the Belfast Telegraph calling on Ulster to reinstate the players who are suspended while their conduct is investigated by Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).