Northern Ireland

Protest held outside Kingspan during Ulster Rugby match

The protest was held outside the Kingspan stadium in Belfast
Image caption The protest was held outside the Kingspan stadium in Belfast

Dozens of people staged a protest outside the Ulster Rugby grounds in Belfast on Friday evening.

The rally outside the Kingspan Stadium at Ravenhill was organised by Belfast Feminist Network.

Its members said they were demonstrating against "an underbelly of sexism and misogyny in rugby".

In March, players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted of all charges in a high profile Belfast rape trial.

Friday night's match was the first Ulster have played at the Kingspan Stadium since the trial ended.

Image caption Belfast Feminist Network organised the protest

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding have been relieved of their playing duties pending the outcome of a review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.

An online petition calling for Mr Jackson and Mr Olding to be reinstated has gathered thousands of signatures.

Speaking before the game, Kellie Turtle of Belfast Feminist Network told the BBC the group's supporters believe that more could be done to improve players' attitudes towards women.

Image caption Kellie Turtle of Belfast Feminist Network said the group's supporters believe more could be done to improve players' attitudes towards woman

"We expect [Ulster Rugby] to take responsibility for educating players, particularly those at such an elite level, who are public figures, who have a considerable power within their community, who are role models for younger people," she said.

"We expect them to take the issue of sexism, misogyny and how you treat women and how you speak about women very seriously."

Although there was some support for the protest among some fans, others felt it was unnecessary.

"This is just very sad that we have to have that at a match," said one Ulster Rugby supporter.

Another told the BBC: "I don't like other people trying to force their opinion onto me."

It is not yet clear when the outcome of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby review will be made public.

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