Paddy Jackson while cleared of doing anything illegal with his dick seems to have learned little from his experience and is now behaving like a dick, albeit a legal one. Instead of quietly savouring his acquittal, he has opted to silence those who have vented disquiet about the verdict. His achievement will be to amplify the decibels that are already hurting his ears. Unlike Stuart Olding who wisely kicked for touch, Jackson has placed himself at the heart of a scrum from which he is unlikely to emerge unscathed.
Irish Labour Party senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. is being pursued by Jackson because in a tweet the politician gave out about “smug well-connected middle-class boys”.
Solicitors acting for the Irish rugby star issued a statement, casting their net much wider than Ó Ríordáin, ominously threatening all and sundry with legal action:
We will not hesitate to repeat similar legal action against anyone, who deliberately or otherwise, sees fit to attack our client. We are examining carefully every item of social media commentary which seeks to challenge the integrity of the jury’s full endorsement of our client’s innocence. High court proceedings will issue shortly in both Belfast and Dublin.
The implication from Ó Ríordáin was that Jackson and his co-accused were acquitted not because of the nature of the evidence against them but because they benefited from class privilege. O’Riordan in offering nothing but a polemic failed to demonstrate a class bias on the part of the jury, but has instead flagged up his own: the men got away with their transgression because they were from a class different to that of Ó Ríordáin: privilege not evidence won the case. Following from that, presumably, the woman alleging rape was working class and that was the reason her testimony was rejected. With no convincing theory a conspiracy theory will plug the gaps.
Nevertheless, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is giving expression to a much wider sentiment that Jackson can ignore only at his peril. This case and its outcome has generated considerable public curiosity and raises so many wider questions that any attempt by Jackson to smother public discussion no matter how harsh, even libellous, can only backfire on him.
People who feel the correct verdict was reached might nevertheless conclude that Jackson is pushing his luck. He should allow public fury to burn itself out and desist from fuelling it. Whatever blaze will emerge from his attempts to douse the flames with the petrol of libel threats it shall not be a blaze of glory.
Jackson will have ample opportunity to discuss the experience, once his hearing in the Rugby world is out of the way. He will be able to debate as well as refute the charge made by Ó Ríordáin. What he should not do is clamp a legal muzzle over the mouth of genuine public concern. It will find a way to get out and thwart attempts by the Paddy protectors to police the Paddy defamers.
Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.