Thursday 23 January 2020

Ireland rugby star apologises over lurid WhatsApp message

Craig Gilroy attends the Belfast rape trial in January. Photo: Pacemaker
Craig Gilroy attends the Belfast rape trial in January. Photo: Pacemaker

Ryan Nugent and Cate McCurry

Rugby star Craig Gilroy has "apologised unreservedly for any offence caused" after it emerged he took part in lurid WhatsApp exchanges which were used in evidence in the Belfast rugby rape trial.

Gilroy's Ulster teammates Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) were acquitted of all charges in the trial last week. However, the pair continue to be suspended by both the IRFU and Ulster Rugby pending an internal review.

Ulster winger Gilroy (27), who has been capped 10 times for Ireland, is now also subject to an internal review and will not be involved in this weekend's clash with Edinburgh.

In a statement on Twitter late last night, Gilroy said that the message was sent privately and not in a group chat.

"Regardless, my comment was totally inappropriate and is not an accurate reflection of my beliefs nor Ulster Rugby's values," he said.

"I take full responsibility for my actions and in future will ensure the language I use in private or public better reflects who I am and what I stand for.

"I am deeply sorry for the hurt my comment has caused," he added.

In a joint statement released yesterday afternoon, Ulster Rugby and the IRFU said: "Ulster Rugby and the IRFU confirm that as Craig Gilroy is subject to an internal review, he will not be available for selection this weekend."

It emerged during the rape trial of Jackson and Olding that Gilroy had participated in a series of graphic WhatsApp messages that emerged in evidence. In one message, Gilroy wrote: "Any sluts get f***ed?" but the sender of this message was referred to only as CG during court proceedings.

In reply to this message, Olding said: "Precious secrets." Gilroy was pictured attending the trial during its first week.

Gilroy signed a contract extension with the IRFU until 2021 in February, when the trial was ongoing.

Both the IRFU and Ulster Rugby were asked by the Irish Independent about the nature of the internal review and whether Gilroy will be unavailable for selection beyond this weekend, but no response was forthcoming at the time of going to print.

The internal review into Jackson and Olding will be conducted by senior officials from both the IRFU and Ulster Rugby, but no further details on the scope or timeline of the review have been provided by the associations.

Meanwhile, a rally in support of the woman at the centre of the rape trial is due to take place outside Ulster Rugby's Kingspan stadium next week.The Belfast Feminist Network, which organised the rally, say the demonstration is to "put pressure" on Ulster Rugby not to "re-employ" Jackson and Olding.

The group, however, has not notified the PSNI about its planned rally, which is due to take place in the south of the city.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: "Police would ask anyone intending to organise a public protest or demonstration to contact local police at the earliest opportunity.

"This allows officers to work with the organiser to ensure that any demonstration is within the law, does not cause obstruction to footpaths or roadways, and that the health and safety of participants and members of the public are safeguarded."

The Belfast Feminist Network posted on its Facebook page:

"We are gathering to put pressure on Ulster Rugby not to re-employ the accused in the Belfast rape trial considering their reprehesible [sic] and misogynistic attitudes towards women as indicated in their WhatsApp messages."

Irish Independent

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