Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster will meet LGBTQ+ groups in the coming weeks, along with Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. It comes in the wake of her party snubbing a meeting with the anti conversion therapy group Ban Conversion Therapy NI last week and subsequently voting against a motion calling for a ban on conversion therapy in Stormont on Tuesday.
The details of the meeting have not yet been released. A spokesperson for the executive told Belfast Live that “The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are planning to meet with representatives of the LGBTQI+ community in the coming weeks.”
Ban Conversion Therapy NI wrote on Twitter how the DUP were the only political party not to meet with them before Tuesday’s vote on conversion therapy. “We made an offer in good faith to meet DUP MLAs through their Assembly Chief Whip. We hoped to explain the importance of a ban on conversion practices in every setting in which they happen. We have not yet received a response to that offer to meet.”
The motion went through by 59-24, with all parties voting in favour of banning conversion therapy except for the DUP and Jim Allister of TUV.
On April 14th we made an offer in good faith to meet DUP MLAs through their Assembly Chief Whip. We hoped to explain the importance of a ban on conversion practices in every setting in which they happen. We have not yet received a response to that offer to meet. https://t.co/VjAGO48cUU
— Ban Conversion Therapy NI (@BanConversionNI) April 21, 2021
If the DUP leader does meet with the groups, it would be the first time a Stormont First Minister has met with representatives of the LGBTQ+ community. While the opening of dialogue between the LGBTQ+ community and the DUP has been welcomed, there are concerns over whether they will be in good faith.
Earlier this week the Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition contacted DUP MLAs to discuss their stance on conversion therapy. The group said they were ‘appalled’ by some of the responses and labelled them ‘insensitive’.
In the correspondence which has been seen by GCN, DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan reiterated the DUP’s concerns about the motion and added that “through Adam’s disobedience in the garden of Eden, the Bible reminds us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and that we all require spiritual conversion through faith in Christ.”
A response from DUP MLA David Hilditch said: “As you say, conversion therapy is conversion therapy regardless of how it is being carried out, or which organisation or individual is carrying it out.”
It continued: “The amended motion is not challenging that. Likewise, though, activities that aren’t conversion therapy are still not conversion therapy regardless of the how, who, or when details. Church prayer? That’s not conversion therapy. Worship? Nope, not conversion therapy either. Nativity plays? No, no conversion therapy there. Communion? Unless there’s something coercive, suppressive and homophobic about a snifter of Sunday morning wine and nibble of bread then that’s not conversion therapy.”
The email concluded: “David can’t offer any assurances that he – or his party colleagues – will vote against the [*checks notes*] DUP amendment to the motion.”
We don't need a cure – let's #BanConversionTherapy.@antictcoalition have launched a petition to put pressure on officials in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.
Sign the petition below ?https://t.co/GvN2yF0YAs
— BeLonG To Youth Services (@BeLonG_To) April 21, 2021
In the meantime, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has indicated that she intends to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy after she voted in favour of the motion on Tuesday.
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