Ulster rugby trial: Debate continues to rage on social media after verdicts

Social media has seen both promises of demonstrations, and now-deleted controversial comments from sports players, following the Belfast rape trial.

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, Paddy Jackson’s solicitor criticised the “vile commentary expressed on social media going well beyond fair comment” that was posted during the trial.

However, the fallout from the verdicts ensures debate continues to rage, from those who welcomed the verdict, and others who were critical of the treatment of the claimant. 

#IBelieveHer was trending on Twitter within hours of the announcement that Mr Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy, and Rory Harrison were acquitted of all charges after an nine week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Crowds are expected to gather outside the court today at 12.30pm, while other demonstrations have been organised in other cities. One such demonstration will be held at the Spire on O’Connell St in Dublin, with a Facebook page for the event stating it is “open to people of all genders affected by domestic & sexual violence.”

Meanwhile, two sporting organisations have moved to distance themselves from tweets attributed to their players, both of which attacked the integrity of the woman, and both of which have since been deleted.

Laois GAA yesterday reacted to a remark tweeted from the account of footballer Gary Walsh, which was subsequently deleted.

“Laois GAA wish to disassociate themselves from tweets or comments made by individuals on social media. Such comments are their own personal opinion, on their own personal accounts, and in no way reflect the views, or opinions, of Laois CLG.

Drogheda United said opinions expressed on the personal social media accounts of its players are “in no way representative of the club” after a tweet from the account of midfielder Luke Rossiter. The tweet has since been deleted and Mr Rossiter has locked his account.

“Drogheda United Football Club is horrified by comments attributed to one of its players on social media this afternoon. The club finds comments such as these disgusting and have no place in football or society. The matter will be investigated and dealt with internally by the club while the rest of the squad, at all age levels, will be reminded of their responsibilities,” the club said.

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