Northern Ireland

Newspaper advert call to 'drop' Jackson and Olding

Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson Image copyright PA
Image caption Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were cleared of rape charges after a nine-week trial in Belfast

Campaigners have taken out a full-page advert in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper, calling for rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to be dropped by Ulster and Ireland.

The message appears in Friday's edition and was crowdfunded by 139 people.

They describe the players' message exchanges - containing explicit sexual terms about women - that emerged during their rape trial as "reprehensible".

Both men were found not guilty last week of all the charges they faced.

They had been accused of raping the same woman in June 2016 and their acquittal came after a nine-week trial in Belfast.

On Friday, Mr Jackson told the Press Association that he was "truly sorry for engaging in a WhatsApp group chat which was degrading and offensive".

'Falls beneath standards'

The message carried in the Belfast Telegraph is directed at the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) - the managing body for the sport on the island - and Ulster Rugby, the club that the men play for.

It says: "The content of the social media exchanges involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was reprehensible.

"Such behaviour falls far beneath the standards that your organisations represent.

"As such we demand that neither of these men represents Ulster or Ireland now or at any point in the future."

It is signed off by "concerned fans", who "expect an answer to this letter".

On the fundraising page for the advert, the women behind the campaign said it would cost £2,000 - a total of £2,115 was gathered.

"We must raise these funds... so we can influence these organisations [which] decide upon these men's futures," the fundraisers added.

Teammate's apology

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding have been relieved of their playing duties while a review committee made up of senior IRFU and Ulster Rugby officials carries out its investigation into the matter.

The fallout from the trial has divided the public, with some people on social media demanding that the players not be allowed to represent the club or their international side again.

But others have supported the men and have encouraged the IRFU and Ulster Rugby to approve their return to the field.

The men's Ulster Rugby teammate Craig Gilroy apologised this week for an offensive message he sent to Mr Olding that was revealed during the trial.

In a statement, the IRFU reiterated that it and Ulster Rugby had started a review of the players.

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