An anti-trans protestor who claimed she was discriminated against after being refused entry into a National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) event on June 9, 2022, lost the discrimination case she brought before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
The NWCI has been vocal about its transgender advocacy and regularly expresses its support and solidarity with the trans community. Before purchasing a ticket for the organisation’s 2022 meeting, complainant Sarah Holmes repeatedly emailed the NWCI criticising a trans-inclusive policy the members had recently approved.
On the day of the meeting, an organisation called The Countess issued a press release stating its anti-trans views which included language targeting a trans member of the NWCI’s board. The press release included plans to “stage an action” at the NWCI event.
NWCI contends that Holmes was welcome to attend the event prior to issuing the press release. However, after it was published, the organisation decided to protect its members, and Holmes and four others associated with The Countess were denied entry by NWCI staff.
16 trans people have been murdered in Europe in 2023 so far.
— Womenscouncilireland (@NWCI) November 13, 2023
After being refused at the door, Holmes took her case to the WRC, claiming discrimination. She alleged that being denied entry because of her opposition to the trans-inclusive policies was a violation of her legally protected religious beliefs.
The Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) represented the NWCI. During the hearing, they reviewed emails that Holmes sent the NWCI, including a January 6, 2021, correspondence which said, “You have put a man on our board of directors simply because he says he is a woman. Women are not a costume to be worn.” Holmes agreed that her emails “could be considered hurtful” but denied that this was her intention.
After two hearings in March and September 2023, adjudicator Elizabeth Spelman determined that there was no discrimination involved, and the WRC ruled in support of the NWCI. The situation was described as having a level of risk that “escalated significantly” with many unknown factors regarding how they planned to disrupt the event.
The Workplace Relations Commission ruled that NWCI was permitted to refuse entry due to the “substantial risk of criminal and disorderly conduct”. Furthermore, the outcome of the case determined that the National Women’s Council is entitled to bar protesters when needed to protect members and attendees from “potentially explosive situations”.
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