​There is some good news on the domestic front.

Published: 2 January 2024

My last column (December 19, click here) bore encouraging reports of Sinn Féin’s political difficulties in the Republic, where their headlong policy U-turns and brazen lies are bewildering some voters.

This week, a reason to be cheerful is that — in the UK at least — in the crazy culture wars around gender ideology, the sane are making solid progress by revealing facts.

Universities and schools, indeed the educational and cultural establishment, much of the civil service, sporting organisations, publishing, human resources and even board rooms have been captured by extremist transactivists, who with great success bullied people into believing that gender self-identification trumps biological sex and silenced those who disagreed.

The problem was and is not people who just wanted to live peacefully as if they were the opposite sex: it’s predatory males masquerading as women in order to have access to women’s spaces, be they prisons, women’s refugees, or changing rooms.

Without shame, mediocre male athletes — knowing that their biology gave them huge advantages— competed successfully against women.

The very language was besieged. The NHS was one of the government organisations that succumbed to pressure to replace the word “woman” in officials documents by such offensive substitutes as “uterus-haver”.

Because of the social army of extremists and widespread intimidation, politicians were among those cowed. Sir Keir Starmer was one of many public figures who for months seemed incapable of answering the simple question, “What is a woman”.

The accurate answer since the dawn of time has been “an adult human female”. Yet dozens of intimidating pro-trans activists, screaming about transphobia and demanding the silencing of all critics of gender ideology twice prevented the screening at Edinburgh University of a serious documentary called Adult Human Female.

It was mostly middle-aged and older women — many who were lesbians, abused for not fancying men, who saw in horror that children had fallen for an ideology that convinced them that a boy who liked pink or a girl who climbed trees had been born in the wrong body and should seek medical intervention and ultimately mutilation — who led what is becoming a successful resistance movement.

Meanwhile, December saw the triumph in the Commons of Kemi Badenoch, the Women and Equalities Minister, who brought in tough guidance for schools on how to protect pupils who want to transition socially — and their parents.

She has also said clearly to trans activists: “I’m not saying that transgender people are predators, but there are more people who are predators than there are people who are trans.”

The influential think tank Policy Exchange has just published a paper challenging trans encroachment on women’s rights. Levelling the Playing Field shows “the fundamental incompatibility of fair and safe competition between men and women within both grassroots, amateur and elite sport”.

The Celts have been madder than the English. The implications for biological women prisoners of SNP’s lunatic Gender Recognition Bill, which First Minister Mark Drakeford aspired to bring to Wales, helped bring down Nicola Sturgeon, and is leading to rethinking in the Republic, which introduced it sneakily in 2015.

The Tanaiste Micheál Martin has uttered the heresy that he is open to “informed debate” on changing the laws on gender self-identification.

Archbishop Martin of Armagh has said: “We have actually built a very complicated society for young children [and] for young families where children, even at the age of eight or nine or ten, are being exposed to this idea of free choice. One would even wonder if a young child or indeed a young teenager is fully able to consent and to realise the huge decisions that are being taken.”

What is needed is no more censoring of free discussion, a case being made powerfully by Dr Arif Ahmed, now the first Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Independent Regulator for Higher Education in England. He describes the core mission of universities and colleges as the pursuit of knowledge – “the principles of free speech and academic freedom are fundamental to this purpose”.

He quotes the great Roman historian Tacitus: “Rare are the happy times, when you can think what you like, and say what you think.”

And so say all right-thinking people, to whom I wish a happy 2024.

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