Sexually explicit language such as that used by Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding is “reflective of wider society and is not exclusive to young men”, an Ulster Unionist MLA has claimed.
Doug Beattie made the comments after the Ireland and Ulster rugby stars were acquitted of raping a woman at a house party in Belfast.
During their nine-week long trial, which ended on Wednesday, the pair were questioned about explicit text messages in which they boasted about sexual activity with friends on the WhatsApp messaging service.
Giving evidence on his own behalf, Olding told the court he was embarrassed by the exchanges, adding: “I am certainly not proud talking like that. But I did it, I have done it and I shouldn’t have done it.”
Many commentators have slammed the Ireland rugby internationals for using such explicit language.
However, UUP justice spokesperson Mr Beattie said this was “a societal issue”.
He told the News Letter yesterday: “I don’t think this is a problem that is exclusive to young men. You will find that some groups of women may well talk in language similar to this as well.
“It is always going to be a bit of a problem, especially when it is supposed to be said in private through a messaging service such as Whatsapp.
“When it becomes public it is always going to play badly for those whoever said it.”
Irish rugby officials have launched a review to determine whether Jackson and Olding can resume their top-level rugby careers.
Mr Beattie said the pair had “undoubtedly brought Ulster rugby into disrepute”, adding: “These rugby stars are in the public eye and they have to remember that.
“Yes they may have been messaging each other privately, but they really have to think about where they stand as role models in society, for people who pay to go and watch them play rugby, idolise them and wear a shirt with their number on it.
“They really have to be careful, even in private. There has been a serious error in judgement on their behalf.
“Their behaviour at the party and their messages to each other have brought Ulster rugby into disrepute, without a shadow of a doubt.
“These people are in very privileged positions because they are idolised by those who support Ulster rugby.
“But it is not for me to say what action their employers should take against them.”