Cross-party, all-island coalition demands an end to conversion therapy in Ireland

Conversion therapy Ireland

A cross-party, all-island coalition is demanding an end to conversion therapy in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Conversion therapy is still legal in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, meaning LGBT+ people on both sides of the border risk being targeted by groups and individuals that claim it is possible to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ministers in Northern Ireland have committed to outlawing the practice, while Sinn Féin senator Fintan Warfield has drafted a bill that would ban conversion therapy in the Republic.

Members from most major political parties in Northern Ireland and the Republic have joined the Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC) in an effort to have the traumatising practice outlawed across the island of Ireland.

Conversion therapy ban is about ‘doing what’s right’

Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, Fianna Fáil, People Before Profit, Labour, the Green Party, Aontú, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have all pledged support for the coalition.

“We’re coming together to highlight that this unethical practice needs to end in Ireland,” said Aaron Grant, chairperson of the ACTC.

“This isn’t an ideological issue; it’s about doing what’s right.”

Grant drew attention to Warfield’s Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018, which is currently in its third stage in the Seanad, one of the houses of parliament in the Republic of Ireland.

He said the bill has broad support across the political spectrum in the Republic of Ireland.

Grant pointed out that the Irish government pledged to ban the pseudoscientific practice in its programme for government when the three-party coalition was formed last year. He said the legislation must be brought “over the line” to consign the such therapies to the past.

Conversion therapy has been discredited by most major psychiatric and medical associations across the world. Despite this, the practice remains legal in many countries.

In the UK, the government pledged to outlaw conversion therapy in its 2018 LGBT Action Plan. Almost three years on, no legislation has been tabled.

Legislation on LGBT+ “cure” therapies is a devolved issue for Northern Ireland, meaning ministers in the region will advance their own legislation.

In September 2020, the communities minster, health minister and justice minster in Northern Ireland committed to ending conversion therapy in Northern Ireland.

The department for communities is currently developing a sexual orientation strategy which will consider what penalties should be put in place for those who try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The strategy is due to be published by the end of December 2021.