Anne Conway, veteran women’s rights campaigner, spoke at Kellie-Jay Keen’s Let Women Speak rally in Belfast on 16th April. All the women there that day knew they had a target on their backs, as Belfast was the next stop on the Let Women Speak tour after the New Zealand rally on 25th March, at which several women were kicked and punched by trans rights activists due to the failure of the police to attend as arranged. Undeterred, a large number of brave women attended and spoke, fortunately well protected this time by a large police cordon keeping the trans rights activists at a safe distance. We asked Anne to share her impressions of the day and the transcript of her powerful speech – a rallying call for all of us who believe that gender ideology is a threat to children’s wellbeing and women’s rights.
About the Author
Anne Conway is a veteran of the women’s movement. She campaigned for legalisation of contraception in the 1970s, worked as a nurse in the Dublin Well Woman Centre at a time when information about abortion was censored, and was active in the Repeal campaign in 2018. She also worked as a teacher in an inner city school, and with the Teachers Union of Ireland as a trade union activist.
More recently, Anne was silenced and forced to resign from the steering committee of the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare for tweeting that the word “woman” should remain in the Maternity Protection Act. She established the campaign to stop the new State funded National Maternity Hospital from being gifted to the order of nuns who ran the Magdalen laundries and industrial schools.
We Need More Heroes
Kellie-Jay Keen, also known as Posie Parker, came to Belfast on April 16th as part of her Let Women Speak tour. It was a tremendous atmosphere; women were buoyed up after being isolated for so long and denied the right to assemble and speak. It was well attended, with women from across the age groups, women from North and South, Scotland, England, migrant women, and a good scattering of men. As is common at all #LetWomenSpeak rallies, a mob of trans activists were there and made every effort to stop the rally. They had sabotaged the sound system and did their utmost to drown out the women speaking. But women had lost the fear and there was a queue of women wanting to speak. One young woman explained that she had come in disguise fearing that she would lose her job but decided to show her face and speak. It was that sort of day. High emotions, determination, and bravery.
The great positive aspect of the Let Women Speak rallies is there is no attempt to select or censor the women who want to speak. Women came forward and spoke on the issues that matter to them as women. The claims that the rallies are Far Right were nailed as a lie by speakers. Various politicos have cast aspersions on the rallies and KJK, claiming they are aligned with Far Right. From a look around at the crowd in Belfast it was clear that this is not the case. Among them were long time feminist activists, socialists and young people who were concerned about where things are going for women, and they each got to speak. The fact that a migrant woman who was anti-abortion was also allowed to speak on the trans issue did not take away from the rally. As feminists, women’s right activists and socialists, we supported her right to speak about her personal struggles and about the erasure of women, which propelled her to take the microphone.
Women spoke about the assault on women’s rights and also the threat that female prisoners faced with the continued imprisonment of Gabrielle Alejandro Gentile, a.k.a Barbie Kardashian, in Limerick women’s prison. A secondary school pupil from Dublin delivered a powerful poem I Am Woman which had the audience riveted. She has since amassed 10,000 followers on Twitter.
That is the great positive to be taken from the event. In a world where women are threatened, censored, silenced, victims of violence and losing their jobs for wrong think, this afforded an opportunity to speak. Kellie-Jay Keen provided the platform for women to express their deep-felt anger at the grievous attacks on women.
I spoke and started off by stating that women would take no lectures from the trans lobby on love or on their stereotypes of women. This is the transcript of my speech:
“I came here today from Dublin with a contingent of women on the train. We’re all women engaged in the struggle for women’s rights. We’ve been involved in that struggle for decades. We work as teachers, carers, look after our families, look after our elderly. So we need no lectures from those people over there about care and love. We give it every day of the week. Nor do we appreciate their stereotyping of us with pink cups and roses. We get our hands dirty, we are prepared for a fight, and we look after people – so that’s what we do in society.
I’ve worked as a nurse and a teacher and spent my life as a young woman fighting for women’s rights – the right to contraception, abortion and workers’ rights, and against imperialism. I’m a socialist, a socialist feminist. But all the organizations that I worked alongside before are now on the other side. They’re for men’s rights. They ignore the rights of women. So they have accepted that our rights are subordinate to trans demands.
We don’t protest at their events. But today we need a police cordon for our safety. This is human rights and democracy in 21st century Ireland! This is human rights and democracy across the Western world where women’s voices are silenced.
So there’s a myth out there that women’s rights are an issue for the Far Right. But the Far Right have never supported women’s rights. I am a socialist, and if you are a socialist you have a duty – as all us women here today have – to defend women’s rights. It should go without saying that we condemn the Far Right.
So the protesters who are here today are behaving like the Far Right. They are silencing us. They are not giving us a voice. Shame on them.
We women in the South of Ireland, we thought we’d put the past behind us – the censorship, the Church control, the subjugation of women. But no, we haven’t, we haven’t moved on. We’ve learned that. We’ve gone backwards. Not since the foundation of the Irish State 100 years ago has there been such a campaign against the women of the 26 counties. We can’t even say our own name.
The Gender Recognition Act and Self ID, brought in the back door, has been the vehicle under which our rights have been decimated, swept aside, stripped from us.
Since the passing of the GRA, every political party, trade union, employer’s organisation, big corporations, NGOs funded by the State from taxpayers’ money – they are are all on board to kick women down, to drown out our voices, to shout us down. So that’s what the reality is. And those people over there – many of them I know probably because I was on the Left – they’re a disgrace to the idea of socialism and to the red flag – they drag it in the gutter.
Never before in the history of the Irish State has there been such a coalition of support for an issue that affects less than 1% of the population. The struggle for contraception in which I was involved, the struggle for abortion in which I was involved, the struggle for gay rights which I supported – all of those struggles were uphill battles with miniscule support. But this top-down movement, with support from corporations, billionaires, etc., is a very strange movement, a very strange movement.
And now the political establishment supports this gender ideology in which we have to surrender our rights as a sex.
Fear of backlash, of being cancelled, of losing jobs, of losing friends hasn’t stopped brave women and indeed men from stepping forward and taking up the mantle of fighting for women’s rights. And fighting for children who are vulnerable to gender identity mutilation.
For myself, I came to this – really I’m ashamed to say – just last year. I tweeted in response to an ICCL criticism of the discussion on RTE about keeping the word “woman” in the Maternity legislation. I was involved in the National Maternity Hospital campaign, also known as Campaign against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare. The moment that tweet went out, there was a meeting called of the steering committee of the campaign, in which I endured intimidation, threats, accusations that I was associated with the Far Right, and it was the most harrowing experience of my entire life. I left that campaign the next day for my own mental wellbeing, and obviously because I wanted to have nothing to do with people like that. After so many years fighting for women’s rights and for decency, I didn’t want to be associated with them.
And shame on the Irish Council for Civil Liberties for going along with that and silencing women, and silencing me.
And the politicians – I have to say a few words about the politicians. At the anniversary of 1916, they were all celebrating equality – equality for everyone, equality for the whole country. But now they have thrown those fine ideals, their flowery language about equality, it’s all in the gutter. They have thrown it in the gutter, because they cannot say a woman is a woman, and a woman is an adult human female.
As a former member of a teaching union, I know action can make a difference. And the most important thing is that we cannot rely on the unions, because deals are made behind closed doors with small numbers.1 So I think what we should be fighting for, and demanding if we’re in unions, particularly the teaching unions who are all on board with this ideology, is that we call for a debate and a ballot of the entire membership of the union. Because these things are pushed through by a clique, a clique – I know, I was involved in unions. Sometimes we could never even get a quorum for a meeting. This is not reflecting the membership of the unions. They don’t want this. They just don’t want to be teaching children about something that is going to mutilate them. And they know that. They know that all it needs in a school is one activist and everybody is frightened to open their mouth because you’re called a transphobe, a TERF – well a TERF is actually a badge of honour now.
So parents have a big role to play. They have to be writing to the union head offices, emailing them, phoning them – inundating them with their concerns. And also the boards of management of schools. Because if we don’t raise our voice, and I heard Kellie making this point, we need new heroes. We need everyone who goes away from here today to get one person on this issue, to make sure there are more people involved and there are numbers growing.
We know this lunacy will be defeated, but sadly not without terrible damage to young children. And even if one young child is damaged by this sinister ideology, it’s one too many.
I have the label of a TERF, and I’m very happy to wear that badge. Initially it just seemed a bit strange, because I didn’t consider myself as a radical feminist, but we are fighting for women’s rights, so it’s a badge we wear with honour.
So finally, coming from the South, we call on Leo Varadkar, who agreed there were violent male sex abusers in Limerick women’s prison. Please remove these men immediately.
Parents and carers whose lives have been plunged into chaos through the indoctrination of their children in gender ideology theory, we stand with you.
We are outraged at the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, who accept males onto the women’s team. Please change this for the safety and respect of the players.
We salute the Irish Rugby Football Union for their courage and decency in making the decision to protect women’s rugby and fairness in sport.
Every person who came here today despite the deep worry about their personal safety – and I have my daughters at home worried for my safety – we are all heroes.
So as I said before, we need more heroes. Please get your friends to join the fight. The tide is turning, thanks to all of us. Venceremos.”
Kellie-Jay Keen has said she will come to Dublin. She had to postpone the rally she had scheduled on April 15th due to a lack of Garda personnel to provide security for her, because the rally coincided with the visit of US President Joe Biden to Ireland. Unfortunately, those who wish to silence women resort to any tactic to do so, as they did in New Zealand when the mob tried to lynch her. The look of fear on her face was palpable and the threat was real. We look forward to welcoming Kellie-Jay to Dublin at a later date.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to go to Limerick Prison where the assault on women is played out in all its ugliness, with sex offenders being housed alongside women in the name of inclusivity.
- Twitter link to clip of Anne speech https://twitter.com/annefcirl/status/1647723400775827463?s=20
- Video of the address by Anne Conway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mx9R6_OfuE