Northern Ireland news

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin apologises over rugby rape trial tweet

Paddy Jackson was found not guilty of rape charges last month. Picture by Hugh Russell

LABOUR senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has apologised for a tweet he sent following the acquittal of Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding on rape charges.

This morning, Mr Ó Ríordáin posted a message on his Twitter page in which he said: "My tweet of 28 March concerning the Belfast rape trial was not designed or intended to suggest that either Paddy Jackson or any of the other accused men were guilty or that the jury got it wrong.

"I apologise for any suggestion to the contrary. I accept that I was not privy to all the evidence put before the jury during the trial.

"I will not be making further comment."

The apology follows confirmation last month from solicitors for Paddy Jackson that they would be taking legal action against the senator for defamatory comments.

Marie Hans, senior associate at KRW Law, said: "I can confirm we have issued pre-action libel correspondence against a named senator in the Republic of Ireland. The legal action relates to a tweet sent to a number of other persons before it was eventually taken down."

She said the legal team "will not hesitate to repeat similar legal action" against other individuals.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) were unanimously acquitted of rape by a jury which deliberated for three hours and 45 minutes after a nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Jackson was also acquitted of sexual assault.

Two other men were found not guilty of lesser charges connected with the alleged 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.

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