DUBLIN — The nine-week rape trial of two rising stars of Irish professional rugby transfixed, and at times horrified, public opinion on both sides of Ireland’s border.
Walked free from Laganside Courts in Belfast, the furor continues over what some describe as a toxic male culture in elite sport.
On Saturday, the players’ rugby contracts were canceled, ending their professional careers in Ireland. Supporters say they are adamant that since the two men were cleared in the sexual assault case, they should be allowed to play professional rugby again.
But for many — like Louise O’Neill, the Irish journalist and author whose international best-selling novel “Asking for It” addresses issues of consent and rape — the original verdict was shocking and traumatizing.
“Whether they honestly think she consented or not, I’ve never met a young woman before who left a consensual sexual experience in tears and bleeding, and for that alone,” O’Neill said, “I don’t think they should be allowed to put on the green jersey again.”
The Ulster case began when a 19-year-old woman said she was raped in June 2016 at a party at Jackson’s home.
Jackson and Olding were charged with rape and sexual assault. The trial centered on whether the woman had consented to the acts performed on her, and on the sometimes contradictory accounts of what had been done, and by whom, on a night fueled by alcohol.
The criminal law in Northern Ireland is based on the principle that guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. After a grueling trial, the two players were unanimously cleared by a jury of eight men and three women.
Jackson’s lawyer, Joe McVeigh, strongly criticized the complainant and police for taking the case. Olding, speaking through his lawyer, maintained that everything had been consensual but said: “I am sorry for the hurt that was caused to the complainant.”
After the verdict, some called for her to be named and said she should be punished for trying to ruin the lives of innocent young men.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.