Minister Roderic O'Gorman tasks officials to explore banning conversion therapy in Ireland

Officials are engaging with the Department of Health to look into options.

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Minister Roderic O’Gorman has confirmed he has tasked officials from Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth with looking at ways to ban the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the Republic of Ireland.

The incredibly dangerous practice which claims to change, suppress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, is currently still legal on the island of Ireland.

In a statement to The Journal, Minister O’Gorman said the Irish government “must be proactive in banning practices that not only propagandise harmful and discriminatory messages, but ones that also have serious negative consequences on a young person’s mental health, with the potential to inflict long-lasting damage.”

The Minister continued, “Legislating for a ban on conversion therapy will send a clear and unambiguous message to everyone, both younger and older, that a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is not up for debate. A ban would especially protect young people who may be subject to such ‘therapies’ due to external pressures.

The statement by Minister O’Gorman comes just days after the announcement of a cross-border Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition being formed to pressure the government, north and south, to legislate against the practice.

Aaron Grant, chairperson of the ACTC, said, “We’re coming together to highlight that this unethical practice needs to end in Ireland. This isn’t an ideological issue; it’s about doing what’s right.”

Earlier this year, Senator Fintan Warfield from Sinn Féin, who originally put a bill before the Seanad in 2018 to outlaw the practice, worried that moves to ban conversion therapy were being forgotten in the wake of COVID-19.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of creating a loophole in his government’s move to ban conversion therapy.

In a letter to the Evangelical Alliance, a group representing over 3500 churches in Britain, the Prime Minister said: “I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity,” and that any such ban would “continue to allow adults to receive appropriate pastoral support (including prayer), in churches and other religious settings, in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.

The statement faced considerable backlash from politicians and LGBTQ+ activists who fear it could mean a religious exemption for any upcoming ban on conversion therapy.

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