The organiser of a protest against the decision of London Irish rugby club to hire former Ulster player Paddy Jackson has defended the event.
Linda Hayden, founder of Action Against Sexual Violence Ireland, said that sportspeople need to be held to a “higher moral compass” since young people regard them as heroes.
While she respected the judgment of the court that acquitted Jackson of rape and sexual assault, she said that in text messages he and his co-defendants had ‘spoken about her like a piece of meat.’
“That’s not good enough for a role model,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.
Ms Hayden has organised the peaceful protest which will take place outside the London Irish v Munster rugby friendly at Musgrave Park tonight.
Protesters are objecting to the London Irish decision to hire out-half Jackson, who was acquitted of rape and sexual assault at a high-profile trial in Belfast last year.
“Lots of young people attend these games, they hero worship these guys.
Ireland has one of the lowest rates for conviction and reporting of rape, added Ms Hayden. People were afraid of what was going to be said about them, not the rapist, she said.
Ms Hayden denied that she was “the morality police” and said she had no problem with Paddy Jackson doing a job for a living, but the problem was that as a rugby player he was being held up as a role model.
“I firmly he should go do whatever he wants to do, but not a job where he is telling people that this type of behavior is acceptable.”