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Report on the International Women’s Day rally in Belfast

Black Woman Booed Off Platform

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

09 March 2023

IWD march and rally in Belfast (04/03/23)

Around 2000 people attended a rally in Belfast to mark International Women’s Day.  The event went off from Writer’s Square without any problems and the march ended at City Hall where there was a long list of speakers to address the audience.

The slogan for the march was; “Stand Up - Fight Back” but it was difficult to see a common action programme uniting the marchers.  Many seemed to share the trade union position of bringing back Stormont so that it could aid women and the working class, but the record of the local assembly was so awful that few chose to say this clearly.

Only one campaign arose directly out of workers’ action. A group of workers had occupied Regina Coeli Womens' hostel to protest its closure and it had just been announced that a new hostel would open.

The disparate range of other speakers was well received by the crowd except for one of them, Mabel Chah, a black migrant woman of Cameroon origin.  Chah is an artist and has made a bit of name for herself in Ireland.  Her inclusion at the Belfast rally was not a one off, nor did it come out of the blue.  In September 2021 Mabel Chah was a key speaker at an Abortion Rights Campaign rally at the Dáil in Dublin and indeed on Twitter the ARC announced how lucky they were to have her as a speaker.(1)  She is a Christian and seems to not favour abortion as a personal choice for herself, but defends the right for other women.  However, abortion rights were not a contentious issue on the day.

During her speech, she made a statement about women, which on the face of it, is only to be expected at an International Women’s Day rally.  She stated that “when I speak of women, I speak of XX chromosomes” and asked the crowd whether they agreed or not.  A group of people at the rally, all of them white, started chanting about trans rights and booed her, forcing her to withdraw from the platform under the direction of the organisers.  Rather than defend the right of this migrant women to speak about an issue, the chair of the proceedings finished off the rally with the religious mantra of: Trans Women are Women.  No support or solidarity with Mabel Chah, she had upset the male lobby a.k.a the trans lobby.  She is one of those migrant women who ticks lots of boxes for liberals, an asylum seeker who went through the awful asylum-seeking process in the south of Ireland, including direct provision, something she has spoken about as guest on RTE’s Ray D’arcy show.(2)  She is an accomplished artist, eloquent and articulate, the poster woman for new communities.  But liberals are not really on the side of either migrants or women and she committed a major Faux Pas in their book by not going along with the new irrational fad of proclaiming Trans Women are Women.

When she spoke in Dublin, Paul Murphy, Bríd Smith and other PbP TDs were in attendance on the day.  Now that she has fallen foul of the trans lobby they have not come out to support this migrant woman from Africa, they have ditched her on the side of the road.  They have commented on trans issues since then, but have not mentioned the harassment of women in general or of her specifically.  Only recently they took part in a massive march in support of migrants and against racism, but it seems their commitment only goes so far.  Like the Right they believe women like Chah only have rights if they are in agreement with them and behave accordingly.  What is the point of a women’s movement where women have to watch their words in front of men?


(1)  See

(2)  See

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