The Ulster Rugby trial, my concerns as a mother and why I’m happy they were sacked

I’ve struggled with how I feel about this case from day one. The moment it even appeared on my radar, I was horrified. My first thought went to my boys and how I would feel, as a parent, if they had behaved in the same way. Secondly, my thoughts wandered to that poor girl and what a huge thing she has faced personally and publicly to highlight her plight and make a difference to someone else. Even if they were found not guilty, she has still done this, and I hope she realises that.

When certain evidence was made available to the public, I found myself even more shocked and appalled. The WhatsApp messages specifically were they proceeded to talk about women as ‘Belfast sluts’ and bragged about ‘spit roasting’. This panicked me. Mainly because I am raising three boys, well, attempting to. Would I expect them to ever talk about a woman in that way? Hell no! I would hope I’ve raised them to treat women with respect. I expect they will be ‘lads’ about certain things, but to speak in that manner after an encounter- over my dead body!! Upon discussing this with my husband (who I always assumed was unbiased and slightly with it) he was of the view that they are just young guys with huge egos. “These men have girls throwing themselves at them everywhere they go. So of course they will act that way”! and, this is my favourite one  “girls like that go to VIP parts of nightclubs with the sole purpose of attracting a famous person and sleeping with them”. I was quite taken aback by that last comment and, slightly enraged if I am honest. Who replaced my husband with this sexist person ? Alas, I am always up for a bit of debating so this presented a great opportunity. I argued that his point didn’t make sense. Belfast nightclubs are not the place where celebrities are certain to be found. The most famous person you usually encounter is local radio host Pete Snodden. He must have half of Belfast throwing themselves at him if that’s the case! We also have no idea what this girl looked like as her identity is protected. I asked what made him think they weren’t just being those type of men that go to these places with the sole purpose of attracting girls, expecting to have their way with them and never taking no for an answer? He looked at me blankly then stated “well, all those types deserve each other”. I said both were merely people making assumptions based on the way someone looks or which part of a nightclub they were sitting in, its not a true reflection. I then asked him seriously if, our boys all become famous sports stars, he would be ok with them acting in such a way towards women. He very quickly replied no. So it’s not ok for your sons to embarrass you in that manner but the rest of mankind can? I thought us women were meant to be the confusing ones!

I think Ulster Rugby have made the right decision to terminate both Jackson and Olding’s contracts. Ok, maybe it was a decision based purely on the fact that Bank of Ireland threatened to pull their sponsorship as opposed to the #ibelieveher movement. But it’s happened and I feel it will make a huge difference going forward. Not only to little boys who look up to these men but women who run their boys back and forth to practise and actually follow rugby. It had to be done. So as much as people droned on about everyone accepting the verdict of not guilty, they should accept the decision to kick them out of the team. I for one would rather my boys looked up to someone who is capable of showing respect and compassion to everyone whilst also being an exemplary athlete. This means so much more than purely being good on the field. It shows strength of character, as well as physical strength . The ultimate role model.

I do believe her and I stand with my fellow ladies in condemning their behaviour that night and in the following days. As more truths seep out it becomes even more shocking to me that this verdict was reached. More blood on Paddy Jackson’s bed that his solicitor asked to be withheld from the jury as ‘he had no intention of explaining where it had come from’ to Olding’s semen being found on the victims crotch. I’m utterly astounded that these facts were allowed to be hidden. What an awful precedent we are setting in this country for those affected by rape! I am certain that this will deter women coming forward in future. I can’t help but think, in a way, it’s good I never had my longed for girl as I would be so embarrassed trying to justify and explain all this to her. No, you cannot have an abortion in Northern Ireland, it’s illegal, even if you have been raped. Not that they would believe you anyway, no matter how much evidence you presented. It’s so Irish, it’s laughable- and I’m Irish.

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