Wednesday 20 June 2018

'The things that were said about us were horrible' - Couple 'deeply upset' at derogatory comments posted on social media by sports club

Sarah Murtagh and Jonny Bruton
Sarah Murtagh and Jonny Bruton

Denise Calnan and Sean Nolan

A couple have described graphic comments posted on social media about them by a Dublin hockey club as 'horrible'.

Jonny Bruton, who plays for Dublin hockey club Corinthians, and his wife Sarah Murtagh, were the subject of a number of social media posts by UCD Mens Hockey club.

The posts made reference to the couple's physical appearance as well as making a vulgar reference to Ms Murtagh.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Murtagh said: "My husband plays with the Corinthians, a Leinster hockey club. They were playing a match against the UCD Men's Team. After the game, which UCD won, there were posts on the UCD Instagram page. The posts were pretty vile."

A post by UCD Mens Hockey that made reference to Ms Murtagh
A post by UCD Mens Hockey that made reference to Ms Murtagh

"I had nothing to do with the match, but they decided to target me. They used vulgar words and put up a poll ... it was obscene. There were images of Jonny put up, insinuating that he was fat. I was pretty devastated and embarrassed about the whole thing."

In a statement the couple said they were "deeply upset" by the comments.

"We were deeply upset by the comments made about us. We run a small gym in Dublin and obviously fitness and health are important elements in our lives. We encourage our clients to view their bodies in a positive way and often meet with clients who have suffered fat shaming or indeed battled eating disorders.

"The things that were said about us were horrible and we just want to highlight this to make sure people will think twice about the hurtful things they say on social media or indeed the things they 'like'. We are grown adults in our 30s. We didn't think things like this could happen to people like us but it did and we aren't going to shy away."

One of the social media posts by UCD Mens Hockey showing Mr Bruton with the location 'Fatland'
One of the social media posts by UCD Mens Hockey showing Mr Bruton with the location 'Fatland'

The posts were deleted but, following a complaint by Corinthians, the Leinster Hockey Association (LHA) set up a Disciplinary Hearing Panel to investigate the incident.

"We submitted a complaint and also submitted a statement," said Ms Murtagh. "That meeting took place on March 27 and since then, we've had no communications from Leinster Hockey as to the actions taken. They won't comment to us."

Mr Bruton and Ms Murtagh are unhappy with the lack of transparency by the LHA.

"Our club representative attended the meeting, our club president attended the meeting and they answered questions from the Leinster Disciplinary Committee," said Ms Murtagh.

"We were under the impression we would hear back. We have heard nothing as to the actions taken. From our point of view, it should be totally transparent."

In a statement the couple added: "Without any official communication from the LHA, how can we be satisfied that justice has been done, or at all? Was a decision even made? Are we expected to just take it on faith that the matter has been dealt with appropriately? This issue caused a great deal of upset and grief to us and we feel like we are entitled to know, and indeed the public is entitled to know what, if any, sanctions were taken.

"If the LHA wants to draw a line under this matter, it should behave in an open and transparent manner. We believe that not releasing the decision to Corinthians Hockey Club or ourselves is protecting only those that made these vile comments on a public forum about us."

The Leinster Hockey Association told Independent.ie that it does not comment on disciplinary matters.

When asked about the hearing by Independent.ie, UCD Mens Hockey Club said: "All dealings with the Disciplinary Panel are private and shall remain that way.

"UCDMHC have no comment on the matter."

In a statement in their Facebook page on March 11 UCD Mens Hockey said: "UCD Mens Hockey Club would like to unreservedly apologise to Jonny Bruton and Sarah Murtagh for posts and related comments made on social media this weekend.

"The references made on the official Instagram page were completely unacceptable, and do not represent the character of the club.

"Those directly affected by derogatory comments made have been personally contacted and apologised to.

"The public comments were not made with insidious intentions, but we acknowledge and accept that they were absolutely out of order. Internal disciplinary action is being taken."

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