Rugby Players Ireland issue statement on Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

Anne Mc Vicker and Helen Crickard prepare placards for tonight’s protest outside Kingspan Stadium

A divide will persist between those who applaud the union's directness and those who believe that as they were acquitted, and as those offensive messages were initially private, they deserved the chance to renew their careers.

Around 250 people staged a protest outside Ulster Rugby's stadium on Friday night ahead of the team's first home game since the two players were acquitted of rape.

The IRFU and Ulster Rugby conducted an internal review in the aftermath of the non-guilty verdict for Jackson and Olding. It is therefore with great sadness and regret but with many cherished memories that I leave that behind. On the day of the acquittal he said he was sorry for the hurt caused to the complainant.

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"Regrettably, influences outside of my contractual arrangement have made it impossible for that to happen". The treatment that I have received since my acquittal, both fair and unfair, has made me even more determined to prove myself. I bear no one any ill will. "To those who have supported me through these last 20 months and especially the fans who continue to support me, I thank you all".

A joint statement was issued by both bodies earlier this morning.

Ireland's Paddy Jackson kicks a conversion in Ireland's second test against Japan in Shizuoko.

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The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby statement acknowleged responsibility and commitment to "respect, inclusivity and integrity".

The IRFU also suspended Irish national player Craig Gilroy until April 26 following a review of a text message he sent. Routinely, Ulster supporters have learnt from Dublin based journalists the latest and breaking news about their Belfast based club - whether it be the arrival of Les Kiss, the departure of Ruan Pienaar or the current shortlist to replace Jonno Gibbes - the news emanates from Dublin - showing clearly where decision making power lies.

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