The Government has been criticised for a delay in banning controversial conversion therapy in Ireland.
Ministers launched Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy 2019–2021 on Thursday, with 100 actions proposed to make the nation more open for the community.
Two of the actions listed are: “Regarding the promotion and practice of conversion therapy, continue research to establish the extent to which the practice is occurring in Ireland and review international best practice in responding, which will also include legislative responses in other countries,” and: “Informed by the findings of the above research, develop an appropriate package of measures for implementation in response.”
When asked whether he is minded to ban conversion therapy, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan refused to be drawn on the issue.
“It’s an issue we should be mindful of and I also believe that appropriate attention should be shown towards it,” he said.
“I believe it’s important we uncover the facts in the first instance then engage in appropriate action.”
Conversion therapy involves trying to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual intervention.
Critics say it can be traumatic and is based on bogus science or extreme religious beliefs.
The Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill, which was put forward by Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield, passed its second stage in the Seanad last year and is currently in committee stage.
The Bill would make it unlawful for any person to “perform or offer to perform conversion therapy on a person, advertise conversion therapy, or remove a person from the State for the purposes of conversion therapy”.
Described as “an Act to prohibit conversion therapy as a deceptive and harmful act or practice against a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression”, Mr Warfield said the Bill would finally lead to the process being outlawed in Ireland.
On the inclusion strategy, he said: “The Department of Justice have been aware of the ongoing activities of certain groups for some time.
“We’ve been telling them this for over a year. They could have started this research a year ago so they’re programme of work will not hold up ours.
“The practice of conversion therapy has been condemned and discredited worldwide by institutions such as the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.
“Sinn Fein welcome the department’s reference to conversion therapy but the Seanad has already supported the principle of a legal ban on the practice.
“So the Government should move quickly in their work because the Seanad will vote again on Sinn Fein’s proposal to outlaw this practice in the coming months.
“I’m sure that their work will result in their support for our Bill.”
The Bill has cross-party support in the Seanad, with backing from independent senators Lynn Ruane, Alice-Mary Higgins, Colette Kelleher, Frances Black and Joan Freeman, as well as Green Party, Fine Gael and Labour Party senators.