In the wake of the Belfast rape trial, Wexford Labour Party representative Joe Ryan has called on the IRFU to consider helping to fund local rape crisis centres around the country after Wexford Rape Crisis Centre reported an increase in calls to its telephone help line coinciding with media coverage of the case.
Speaking after the acquittal last week of four defendants including two high-profile rugby players, Mr. Ryan who is chairperson of Wexford Women's Refuge, said his concern is for victims of sexual assault regardless of whether they have been through the courts or not.
'I met this week with Mairead Sinnott, chairperson of Wexford Rape Crisis Centre, who informed me that calls to their telephone line increased significantly at the start of the trial,' he said.
'As social and mainstream media focus on the outcome of the trial, for some people, the result revives deep and long buried personal trauma. The reality is that any person hoping to seek counselling for this trauma will have to wait due to a lack of funding'.
Mr Ryan said he understands that the Rape Crisis Centre needs all the donations it can get just to maintain its services and currently has a waiting list of 14 people for its counselling services.
'Two of the individuals involved in the Belfast case were suspended from their contracts with the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.
'Without prejudice to what they decide, I think it is appropriate for the IRFU, through a charitable trust, to contribute to rape crisis centres like Wexford, in order to help them deal with the increase in demand that this case has generated because of the media focus', he said.
'We know that many cases of alleged sexual assault don't come before the courts for many reasons. This hides the reality that there are people out there who are traumatised and trying to rebuild their lives. Proper funding for Rape Crisis Centres is essential to help victims to do just that'.