Evening top 5: Date for Eighth Amendment referendum announced; latest figures show homeless numbers continuing to rise

Catch up with Wednesday's top stories...

Belfast rape trial: All four defendants acquitted on all charges

Composite image shows (clockwise from left): Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson, Rory Harrison and Blane McIlroy

All four defendants in the Belfast rape trial have been found not guilty on all charges.

Ireland and Ulster rugby internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping the same woman at a party in Jackson’s south Belfast home in June 2016.

26-year-old Paddy Jackson had denied vaginally raping the 19-year-old woman. He was also acquitted of one count of sexual assault.

25-year-old Stuart Olding was acquitted of one count of oral rape. 

Their friend Blane McIlory was acquitted of one count of exposure, while another friend Rory Harrison was acquitted of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Prosecutor insists it was in public interest to bring Belfast rape case to trial

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service has insisted it was in the public interest to prosecute the four men at the centre of the Belfast rape trial.

Following the verdict, Paddy Jackson's solicitor Joe McVeigh lashed out at the PSNI, the public prosecutor and the complainant over the prosecution.

He said the decision to prosecute the four men was driven by Mr Jackson's "status as a famous sportsman."

However, Marianne O'Kane, head of the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service's Serious Crime Unit, said: "It was ultimately right that the matter was placed before a jury to make their determination."

Eighth Amendment referendum to be held on May 25th

Image: Sean Defoe

A referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held on May 25th.

The Government officially set the date after the referendum bill was passed in the Seanad this afternoon.

Speaking before the upper house voted on the bill this afternoon, Health Minister Simon Harris noted that, despite opposition to the referendum plans, no alternative legislation had been tabled by any party.

Skripals came into contact with nerve agent 'from their front door', police believe

Police in the UK say they believe former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned at their home.

The pair were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4th.

In an update this evening, Met Police said forensic tests show the highest concentration of a nerve agent discovered so far has been on the front door of the Skripals' home.

Latest homeless figures show more than 200 extra families in emergency accommodation

Eoghan Murphy, Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

There has been a further rise in the number of families becoming homeless, the latest figures have revealed.

The Department of Housing says there were 1,739 families living in emergency accommodation in February - a rise of 222 compared to January.

In a joint statement, prominent homelessness campaigners Sr Stanislaus Kennedy and Fr Peter McVerry said they have lost all confidence "in either the ability or commitment of the Government to solve the housing and homelessness crisis".