Ireland needs to grow up and have a serious conversation about men and women
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Ireland needs to grow up and have a serious conversation about men and women

IF there’s one positive thing to be taken from the Belfast rape trial involving Ulster rugby players it is that no-one can now deny that Ireland needs to grow up and have a serious conversation.

It needs to have a talk about how men view women.

That is, we need a very fundamental conversation about how one half of the population treats the other half.

Indeed this is so true that we don’t even need to look directly at the case itself.

Looking at some of the noise around it is enough.

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Take for instance the Laois GAA player Gary Walsh, who tweeted, after defendants Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were all cleared of all charges, a controversial message regarding the verdict, which he later deleted and apologised for.

He tweeted: “Where’s yer one’s name from the Paddy Jackson trial? It’s her that should be destroyed in the papers now, all ye feminists come at me I’ll throw the kitchen sink at ya”.

And in doing so he said far more than he will ever know.

Of course there’s a little lesson there about tweeting the first thought, and I use that word loosely, that comes in to your head, but there is a far bigger lesson behind it.

Much like the messages shared between the men found innocent following the trial, as revealed to the court, this tweet shows such a disregard, such a diminished view of women, that it is impossible not to be disturbed by it.

Indeed so quickly did the likes of that GAA player respond after the verdict that you’d really have to wonder about the level of hostility towards women that some men seem to harbour.

It makes you wonder how widely shared amongst Irishmen is that dark view of females?

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And, of course, this being rugby we are talking about, there is the class element, the great hidden element in any Irish story.

Does the case tell us anything about privilege and entitlement and the hyper masculine culture of rugby?

Those men were found innocent on all of the charges they faced in court, in a no-doubt gruelling, nine-week trial.

It is a fact in law now that they did not do the crime they were accused of.

What is also fact is that they are the very people held up by virtue of sporting achievement, schooling and background to be those we should admire.

They had the best of everything and they are the best of everything.

What is also now enshrined in legal fact is what happened that night and how they spoke to one another, via text messages, about it afterwards.

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I don’t know about you but they’re not the kind of men, the kind of people, I admire.

And despite what some people have seemed to suggest, the woman in the case wasn’t accused of anything, because if she’d had too much to drink and if she ended up acting foolishly, well, that isn’t a crime.

It also doesn’t leave you in any way to blame if someone commits a crime against you.

So, as a fact of law, everyone in that case is legally innocent.

Even, and it shows how much we need to have that conversation that this needs to be stressed, the woman.

Laois GAA have since responded to that ill-judged tweet by suspending Gary Walsh.

Like the rest of us, he wasn’t there on the night and so like the rest of us doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

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What he did say though, combined with the shared messages of the defendants, might be as good a place as any for us all to start and to ask, here in Ireland, but I suspect everywhere else too, a few pertinent questions.

Let's start with, what is one half of the population’s problem with the other half?

Then, why do men have such a problem with women?