As a lifelong supporter of Ulster and Irish Rugby I was this weekend celebrating a famous and thrilling win in Paris. My father said he could almost not bear to watch the final minutes but he managed it and was euphoric.Our brave lads were led out by skipper Rory Best of Ulster but if you check out social media you will see that in the run up there was a most hateful campaign against Best. His "crime?"
Two Ulster and Ireland team-mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are on trial for an alleged rape. A third man, former Ulster Academy player Blane McIlroy, is charged with indecent exposure, while ex-UCD and Belfast Harlequins player Rory Harrison is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. All four men deny the charges.
On Wednesday on his day off Best and Ireland second-row Iain Henderson and Ulster team-mate Craig Gilroy attended the trial in Belfast. And that is Best's "crime".
I am in no doubt that if the men are found guilty Best will condemn them. But justice used to mean that the accused were presumened innocent until proven guilty and these men, mates of Best's, protest their innocence. I would hope that if a friend of mine insisted he was innocent of a crime I would support and stand by him (or her) until a verdict was reached at which time I would re-assess my position.
But apparently while those who accuse men of rape are guaranteed anonymity - however spurious or malicious the claim is established to be in the end - those who stand charged are named and, in the current climate of #Metoo, must be shunned because guilt rather than innocence is assumed.
There was a chap on the BBC saying yesterday that as Hollywood pourges the predators there will be innocent victims ( i.e. men falsely accused whose careers are ruined) but that this is a price worth paying. Is it really acceptable to condemn a man to shame and professional ruin without any sort of trial but just becuase he stands accused of an awful offence? This is the direction that #MeToo is heading as Rory Best has discovered to his cost.
As he led his team to a famous win I hope that all of Ireland was proud of him for he has done nothing wrong at all other than stand up to the madness of ( largely and predictably, social media) crowds and show a commendable loyalty to his friends who are still, under law, presumed, as they plead, innocent..