The petition, started by Caolan Mc Aree, has gained almost 1500 signatures since its launch three days ago. Its text reads “Ronan Mullen’s disgusting comments on conversion therapy in Ireland do not represent the people of Ireland in any way and therefore he should resign as a member of Senad Eireann (sic).”
The comments at issue were made during a discussion in the Seanad of what Ronan Mullen called the “difficult area of transgender persons’ rights and needs.”
Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield spoke about the “cruelty of so-called conversion therapy,” describing it as a “vile practice” and noting that it carries severe mental health risks. His comments were in line with statements by the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and the Irish Council of Psychotherapy, as well as several state governments that have banned the practice.
Mullen responded by saying “I don’t know enough about it at this stage but if it can be demonstrably shown that this is harmful to people then there is a case to make it unlawful. If it cannot be shown to be harmful to people, we are back into the realm of individual choice.”
Doctor Mary McAuliffe, an Assistant Professor in Gender Studies, has responded to Mullen’s comments by pointing out the dangers inherent in the concept of conversion therapy.
“Somebody like Senator Mullen mentioning that in the Seanad implies that people who are LGBT have some sort of disorder that needs to be corrected rather than people who happen to be that way,” she said. “I think that is a disturbing and dangerous route to go down.”
Legitimate therapists and counsellors worldwide have pointed out the harm done by conversion therapy to vulnerable LGBT+ people. The IACP, Ireland’s leading therapists’ association, recently released a statement condemning the practice. The experience of receiving treatment aimed a changing a person’s sexuality or gender identity can, the association maintains “lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”
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