Green Party deputy leader challenges Arlene Foster to hold "overdue" meeting with LGBTQ+ groups

Malachai O'Hara has challenged Arlene Foster to engage with LGBTQ+ community groups in Northern Ireland saying the "time has long passed".

Image: Green Party NI

The Deputy Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland has said that if Arlene Foster can engage loyalist paramilitaries, she should be engaging with LGBTQ+ organisations.

Malachai O’Hara said the “time has long passed” for the First Minister to meet with various LGBTQ+ groups and that this is something she should “reflect on”.

The comments from the deputy leader of the Green Party come after she defended a decision to meet with the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) with Arlene Foster saying it is “important that all communities have a voice in the political process”.

The LCC is an umbrella organisation representing the UVF, UDA and the Red Hand Commando.

In an interview with Belfast Live, Mr O’Hara said: “I think the time has long passed for the First Minister to have met with LGBTQ organisations.

“There are issues faced by the community that need to be addressed, whether that’s hate crime, access to IVF, risk of homelessness, health inequalities, poorer mental health etc – and the First Minister really needs to reflect on that, the fact that she has never met those organisations.”

Foster, who campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality as part of the Save Ulster From Sodomy movement in the 1970s, spoke at a Pink News event in Belfast in June in 2018, being the first DUP leader to do so.

Some saw her appearance at the event as a display of support for the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland. But, in her speech, she proclaimed that she would support the community if her opposition of same-sex marriage was respected in return.

In relation to this, O’Hara said that while the First Minister is entitled to her opinion, she had “effectively lectured at the community”.

He also criticised the DUP for attempting to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland for so long.

Speaking on ITV in January 2020, Arlene Foster said that same-sex marriage had been imposed on Northern Ireland: “What we need to ensure now is the same safeguards for those people who don’t want to engage in those issues – from a church point of view…The Secretary of State says that is the case and we very much hope that is the case.”

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