Saturday 22 October 2016

When approval turned to criticism and blame

Wayne O'Connor documents how the row over Niamh Horan's article on women's rugby unfolded and looks at some of the series of heated statements on the issue on Twitter

Published 17/08/2014 | 02:30

Niamh Horan
Niamh Horan

THE Twittersphere exploded into a frenzy last week as readers took to social media to air their opinions on an article detailing Sunday Independent journalist Niamh Horan's training session with a women's rugby team.

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The morning began with the club featured in the piece voicing their approval of the coverage.

On their Twitter account, Railway Union RFC said: "Great feature on the club in the Indo today, if a tad risqué with a few of the usual stereotypes thrown in! Great…"

There was a similar endorsement on the club's Facebook page but this status was edited an hour later and their original tweet deleted from the club's Twitter account, as public opinion turned against the piece.

Among the first to voice displeasure at the piece was The Irish Times columnist Shane Hegarty. He tweeted: "'You're a woman journo, go play women's rugby.' 'Got it.' 'But we will want every lazy stereotype going.' 'Bingo.'"

His colleague Donald Clarke criticised the language in the piece and Una Mullally branded it a disgrace.

Clarke said: "These are not butch, beer-swilling, men-hating women. But we still managed to use those words," he said.

Mullally then stated that Railway Union RFC had done themselves a disservice by endorsing the article.

Later, Railway Union RFC said that they took part in the piece at the request of the IRFU and released a statement on Facebook saying: "We are disappointed that what could have been a hugely positive article promoting women's rugby in Ireland, at a time of such achievement internationally, has been reduced to stereotyping.

"The article in no way reflects our sport, its values and the values of our club and our members. Our club's primary goal is always the promotion of rugby, regardless of gender, and we support all teams in the club equally."

They then tweeted denying that they had endorsed the article.

Una Mullally welcomed the fact that the club made attempts to disassociate themselves with the article.

"Good to see @RFCRailwayUnion now address and distance itself from unhelpful stereotyping of women's rugby by the Sindo," she said.

Eventually the pendulum swung the other way. Human rights activist Cora Sherlock said: "Next time @Niamh Horan should collect approved quotes & feed them to her interviewees to keep everyone happy. Who needs a different opinion?"

The jokes that typify any social media discussion followed as Horan was blamed for Ireland's World Cup defeat to England, before Ross O'Carroll-Kelly called the reaction to the piece excessive.

He tweeted: "Yes, it's possible to be a fan of women's rugby AND think the reaction to @NiamhHoran's piece was ridiculously over the top. Calling it."

Sunday Independent

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