Monday 19 August 2019

Craig Gilroy apologises 'unreservedly' for lurid WhatsApp message as IRFU and Ulster launch internal review

19 May 2016; Craig Gilroy of Ulster during the captains run at the Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
19 May 2016; Craig Gilroy of Ulster during the captains run at the Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland rugby star Craig Gilroy has "apologised unreservedly" for any offence caused by the lurid WhatsApp message he sent, which was used as evidence in the Belfast rape trial.

The Ulster winger was made unavailable for selection by his province for this weekend, as they conduct an internal review into the message.

Gilroy will not play in Saturday's PRO14 game against Edinburgh, Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said.

In a statement issued online, Gilroy said 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.

Ulster and Ireland teammates Paddy Jackson, 26, and Stuart Olding, 25, were unanimously acquitted last week of raping the same woman at a house party at Jackson's home in June 2016.

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Part of the subsequent review being carried out by Ulster Rugby and the IRFU focuses on a series of messages sent by the players in the wake of the incident.

It is understood Gilroy, who was not involved in the incident, sent one of the sexually explicit messages that featured in conversations outlined to the jury during the nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

The sender of the message that read "any s**** get f***ed?" was referred to only as "CG" during court proceedings.

A statement by 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."

Thousands of people have attended rallies across Ireland to express support for the woman at the centre of the case following the outcome of the trial.

Jackson and Olding have expressed a desire to return to playing action. But they remain relieved of their duties pending the outcome of the sporting review.

Jackson was also found not guilty of sexual assault.

Two other men were unanimously acquitted of lesser charges related to the same incident in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, was acquitted of exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The high-profile trial, which ran for 42 days, generated an unprecedented level of public attention and prompted calls from Jackson's defence solicitor for a crackdown on social media comment during criminal proceedings.

It has also renewed the debate on whether defendants in rape trials should also be entitled to anonymity, with their names only being revealed if they are convicted.

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