Male keynote speaker withdraws from International Women's Day event

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An established public speaker from Co.Down who was thrust into the spotlight last week has confirmed his withdrawal from an International Women’s Day event he was scheduled to speak at.

In a social media post, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council announced Bangor-based personal marketing and image consultant Billy Dixon as the keynote speaker at the Chairperson’s International Women’s Day Event to be held in Newry’s Canal Court Hotel on March 8.

Although the event will be hosted by BBC Radio Ulster presenter Lynette Faye, and features other female guests including Niamh Quinn, the founder of charity Advocacy Vsv, and Ukranian refugee Daria Yakovenko, the choice of a male as keynote speaker sparked online criticism.

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Mr Dixon came under intense scrutiny from politicians and women’s rights groups for accepting the invitation.

Billy Dixon is a motivational speaker on topics such as: leadership, mental health, resilience and personal branding.Billy Dixon is a motivational speaker on topics such as: leadership, mental health, resilience and personal branding.
Billy Dixon is a motivational speaker on topics such as: leadership, mental health, resilience and personal branding.

Among those to voice frustration was Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party, who said the announcement was "mortifying".

However, a council spokesperson defended its position, saying the decision “emphasises our commitment to inclusivity, encouraging a collective understanding that gender should not be a barrier to shared inspiration and empowerment”.

Speaking exclusively to The Newry Reporter on Monday, Mr Dixon confirmed he has notified the council of his decision to withdraw from the event.

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“In light of recent events, I regretfully announce my decision to step down as speaker at the International Women’s Day event in Newry, Mourne and Down.

"Over the years, participating in this event has been a source of inspiration and empowerment as we strive for gender equality and amplify women's voices.

“It saddens me to withdraw my involvement, particularly given this year's theme of "Inspire Inclusion," and to see the unfortunate backlash the event organisers are facing.

"However, amidst this disappointment, I would like to shed light on an issue close to my heart and one I had hoped to discuss at the event: the value of humanity. The exploitation of young girls and women by criminal gangs and human traffickers, is a crime that persists in plain sight across Ireland's towns and cities and demands our collective attention.

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“I encourage you to learn more about the invaluable efforts of organisations like Invisible Traffic and further educate yourselves on how to safeguard our youth. Together, let's work towards a future where every individual is valued and protected.”

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said it acknowledges the concerns raised by the public and understands Mr Dixon’s withdrawal from the event.

"The event incorporates an exciting line-up of inspirational speakers – ‘Influential Voices’, networking lunch and the opportunity to raise significant funding for the Chairperson’s four chosen charities.

“Our commitment to inclusivity remains unwavering, and we deeply regret the impact on the celebration of the day. We remain dedicated to fostering an environment that celebrates the contributions of individuals from all walks of life.”

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