Northern Ireland news

Craig Gilroy apologises for explicit message after he is ruled out of Ulster Rugby team

Ulster Rugby's Craig Gilroy was in the public gallery at Laganside Magistrates court on day two of the trial

CRAIG Gilroy has apologised for a explicit message he sent to a friend which was revealed during the high-profile rugby rape trial.

It was announced yesterday that Gilroy will not play for Ulster Rugby at the weekend after the club confirmed he is to be subject to an internal conduct review alongside Ireland team mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

The confirmation comes a week after the end of the Ulster rugby rape trial, which had revealed a series of misogynistic WhatsApp messages exchanged between three top players - Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and Craig Gilroy.

Gilroy has since been revealed to be the 'CG' which the trial heard sent a message to Olding asking "Any sluts get f***ed?" the day after the party at Jackson's house where the student claimed she had been raped.

Ireland internationals Olding and Jackson were both found not guilty of rape.

In a statement issued late last night Gilroy apologised “unreservedly” for the message, which he said was “sent privately” and not as “part of any 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.”

At a press conference on Monday, coach Jono Gibbes said Gilroy was available for selection, indicating that the winger was not at that stage included in an Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) review into the conduct of Jackson and Gilroy.

The review committee is made up of senior representatives of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.

The Irish News asked Ulster Rugby if it knew of the existence and content of the WhatsApp messages from Gilroy when his new contract was negotiated and agreed in February.

The club has not yet responded.

The news of his inclusion in the review was released in a brief statement to sports reporters, as the public silence of Ulster Rugby chiefs continues.

The club has been accused of attempting to stifle criticism after blocking a raft of social media users and refusing to make chief executive Shane Logan and operations director Bryn Cunningham available to the media.

During the team's first press conference since the end of the trial, questions about code of conduct were shut down by a press officer.

The refusal to engage has extended to social media where a new hashtag was last night gaining traction as the number of users shut out of Ulster Rugby's official Twitter account began to spiral.

Users began displaying screenshots showing they had been prevented from following, or even viewing, the account, with the hashtag #ulsterrugbyblockedme.

One user claim they were blocked despite the face they had "never even contacted" Ulster Rugby.

"#UlsterRugbyBlockedMe but that doesn’t change the need for them to engage in the ongoing public conversation about toxic masculinity in our sports culture. And it doesn’t look great either!" they wrote.

Another said: "#UlsterRugbyBlockedMe for merely asking questions & making comments! All of which were polite & civil & part of a wider very important public dialogue. They have now lost my confidence entirely".

More than 60,000 have now signed a petition demanding that the IRFU "confirm that you will conduct a thorough review of their behaviour and make the findings public if these players are ever being considered to play for the Irish team".

It urges the body to "consider their admissions in court, Whatsapp records of their dialogue (and) their public image".

Read more: Claire Simpson: Educating young sportsmen on acceptable language would be a good start (Premium)

Controversial Paddy Jackson photo resurfaces

Major Ulster rugby sponsor `awaiting result of internal review' following rape trial acquittals

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