Speaking of Imelda – a direct-action feminist performance group that operates from England – have turned up in Tralee to make their own contribution to the Rose of Tralee pageant that celebrates Irish womanhood across the globe.
The pro-choice group said they had chosen to speak at the Rose of Tralee Festival in Co Kerry as its aim was to crown the winner for being “lovely and fair”.
"We wanted to highlight that the lack of reproductive rights on the island of Ireland makes women's lives far from rosy," a spokeswoman told The Irish Times. "We have nothing against the Roses themselves, but the idea of judging women in a national competion should be subverted."
Speaking of Imelda have performed the “Rogue Rose of Tralee Pageant” in a number of locations in Tralee town.
The “Rogue Rose of Tralee” featured a line-up of international contestants “who were not judged on their femininity, Irishness, nor their personalities – they were judged on the reproductive rights available to them in their home countries.”
Ms Northern Ireland and Ms Republic of Ireland lost to Ms Canada, Ms Britain and Ms USA. “Reproductive rights on the island of Ireland are definitely not ‘lovely and fair’,” a spokeswoman said. “We want all women on the island of Ireland to have access safe, legal and local abortion.”
Members of Speaking of Imelda previously chained themselves to the columns outside the General Post Office in Dublin as they made an unofficial contribution to celebrations of the Easter Rising of 1916 by reading out their “alternative proclamation”.
They also made a presentation of a pair of large women’s knickers complete with “Repeal the Eighth” slogan to Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a political fundraising dinner in London in October 2014. The resultant “knicker-bombing” video went viral on social media.
Speak of Imelda wear a red skirt in homage to the women who met those arriving from Ireland to have an abortion in England. The red skirts meant they were recognisable at airports or stations.
The name Imelda was employed as a codename by women travelling to England for abortions between 1986 and 1995.
According to British Department of Heath figures for 2014, up to 10 women are thought to leave the Irish State every day to get an abortion in the UK.