MORE THAN 700 people are set to descend on Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium in Belfast tonight in protest at the behaviour of the club’s players.
The demonstration is being organised by Belfast Feminist Network and will take place just before Ulster take to the pitch for their first home match since the trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding ended.
The event was posted on Facebook and entitled ‘Stamp out Misogyny at Ulster Rugby’.
The feminist group have stated that the rallies are “the start of a movement to change how our criminal justice system deals with sexual assault crimes”.
One of the event’s organisers Kellie Turtle told The Irish Times the focus of the rally is not about the future of the players currently suspended.
“We want there to be genuine accountability for all those who have been exposed as deeply misogynistic in their correspondence with each other, in accordance with their code of conduct,” she said.
“We want to hear from them how they intend to take action to get rid of the culture of sexism that clearly exists in their community.
“Proper education for their players and awareness-raising campaigns for the fans.
“They should work with the great women within their own structures who we know have been trying to change the culture for years with limited support from the rugby establishment.”
Since both Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were acquitted of all charges two weeks ago, their playing duties have remained on hold pending a review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.
A petition calling for the pair to be reinstated into the Ulster Rugby team currently has close to 16,000 signatures as of last night, while two opposing petitions calling for the men to be removed from the squads had gathered just over 450 signatures this week.
Ahead of tonight’s rally, the organisers have admitted that they have “some concerns about a confrontational attitude from a minority of fans but equally, we reckon there will be many who support what we’re doing”.
The press statement released by Belfast Feminist Network concerning tonight’s rally reads as follows:
“We are having this rally to express our anger at the underbelly of sexism and misogyny in the rugby community that was revealed in evidence given during the recent trial.
“The accused expressed attitudes that are harmful and dangerous and many women are reliving their own painful experiences of sexism as they watch the intense media coverage.
“We believe that Ulster Rugby should take responsibility for the culture of sexism that clearly exists in their own ranks”.