Huge PSNI presence at Let Women Speak illustrates threat level against critics of gender ideology

Last Sunday women’s rights campaigner Kellie Jay Keen brought her international speaking event, Let Women Speak, to Belfast. 

Despite the attendance of a large crowd of very vocal trans rights protestors – who shouted and blasted music for over two hours – the event passed over peacefully, a result which may be in no small part attributable to the heavy police presence.  

Around 70 (if not more) PSNI officers were in attendance for the entirety of the two hour event with a police boat patrolling the waters of Belfast Lough, right behind the location.


Having reported on the event as it happened this writer feels compelled to wonder why an event at which women were invited to read poetry, speak about their lives, and generally express frustrations at the current state of the overton window managed to draw a sizeable demonstration to ‘counter’ it.


I would have thought the notion that not everyone agrees on things was a rather well established one here in the west, and while certain issues do get some of us more worked up than others, part of our social contract is an agreement that other people are allowed to express their opinions. 

Now the open mic format of Let Women Speak  did draw a few animated contributions  and some choice language was used in which (to paraphrase) ‘men in dresses’ may have been occasionally invited to ‘fuck off’, but I don’t remember the use of strong language in public spaces being a cause for outrage, or at least not a huge police presence. 


Despite the trans rights demonstrators chanting slogans aimed at Keen (who uses the twitter handle Posie Parker)  like, ‘Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side’, there was (perhaps unsurprisingly) no visible evidence of nazi support or attendance. 


There were no calls to violence, nor was there any notable hostility aimed at the trans crowd who continued to shout and blare music through the entirety of the event in an apparent attempt to prevent the speakers from being heard.

I did see a girl on the Let Women Speak side holding a Repeal banner exchange some heated words with the opposition, but that was about it. 

The protestors, the majority of whom appeared to be male,  also shouted a slogan which I seem to remember being, “Women’s rights, trans rights, same struggle, same fight,” – this is perhaps a good example of not everything that rhymes being true. 


Having seen the reaction to some of Keen’s events from across the water and further beyond, there seems to be an eagerness to attempt to prevent people from speaking in public on issues like this.

Hot button issues like biological males being granted unfettered access to female only spaces, sports competitions, prisons  etc., would appear to be something that should be, and should  be expected to be spoken about and debated at length in a democratic society like our own, however it would seem that much of the legislation connected to the government’s rubber stamping of  gender ideology passes without much public debate at all.

As a journalist reporting on the event, my personal opinions did not reflect the way in which I covered the behaviour of either side on the day.

However, as this is a comment piece and not a news report on what happened, I’ll take the liberty of saying that some of the voices from Let Women Speak highlighted their own personal championing of issues, some of which are at odds with my own world view: which is fine because freedom of speech is often referred to as the cornerstone of democracy.


Given that, as stated previously, people are allowed to hold different views and represent those views the thing that this writer feels most puzzling is the efforts gone to show opposition to the event even taking place at all. 

What ever happened to the very grown up notion of agreeing to disagree – at least in so far as not disrupting public events goes? 



Such was the level of resistance to Keen and her supporters speaking in Belfast that socialist feminist group ROSA sent a bus of protestors from Dublin, while Northern Ireland’s rape crisis centre also publicly supported the demonstration of the event.


The noise generated by the trans rights protestors – featuring Labor Party local representative for north Leitrim Bernie Linnane, who held a sign saying, ‘Limerick for choice’, – was so loud that it was very difficult to hear the open mic session of Let Women Speak unless one was standing in the front of the crowd. 


In an interview with Kellie Jay Keen I was told that she is planning to reschedule the cancelled Dublin date of Let Women Speak to a date in the near future. 

As the two hour event came to a close, Keen was encircled by a group of stewards and speedily escorted to a waiting vehicle before being whisked away from the area, and from the attitude of those surrounding her I did get the distinct impression that there was genuine fear for her safety. 

Given the lengths trans protesters went to disrupt the event in Belfast, this writer is left wondering how many members of An Garda Síochána will be needed to ensure the Dublin date passes off without incident. 


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