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Minister for Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman. Leah Farrell
Conversion Therapy

Research to inform conversion therapy ban expected by end of summer

Roderic O’Gorman said the research will inform legislation to ban the controversial practice in Ireland.

MINISTER FOR EQUALITY Roderic O’Gorman has said that research commissioned into the “extent and nature” of conversion therapy in Ireland will be completed by the end of this summer. 

The Government had hoped progress the Banning of Conversion Therapy Bill ahead of the Dáil’s summer recess, but the Minister confirmed that the research commissioned to inform the legislation would not be completed in time. 

The research was commissioned last year and was due to take place over several months, with work on drafting legislation due to commence this year.  

O’Gorman was speaking at an event organised by LGBT Ireland in Dublin today, where a range of speakers called on the Government to follow through on their commitment to ban the controversial practice.

The practice of ‘conversion therapy’ refers to any form of psychological intervention which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation. It is typically carried out in settings without qualified medical supervision. 

The delay in banning the practice in the Republic, a commitment contained in the Programme for Government, comes after it was decided that research is needed to determine how prevalent it is, and in what settings it occurs, before legislating to ban it.

“My department has commissioned research to capture the views and the experiences of people who have been subject to conversion therapy. A team in the School of Nursing and Psychology in Trinity College is leading that research,” O’Gorman said today.

“It’s a multi-phased and mixed methodology research, and we hope to have that research completed by the end of summer of this year, and I look forward to being able to share the final conclusions of that research.”

He said the findings of this research would be vital in assisting the Government to develop the legislation to ban the practice of conversion therapy.

“We’re undertaking this domestic research to understand exactly where these practices are taking place so we can best shape this legislation, but we are also looking at international practice as well,” he said. 

I want to have this piece of research done and I want to have it there so I can make an argument based on detailed research, based on practices that are out there that are taking place, and that we can show how this legislation will address and will end those practices.

O’Gorman stressed that the Government remains committed to legislate to ban conversion practices in Ireland.

“I want to be very clear here. There is no lessening of this government’s commitment to achieve a ban on conversion practices, and it will be a ban that leaves nobody behind,” he said. 

“These practices are cruel, they’re furtive and they’re rooted in the promotion of shame, and I think there can be no place for that in our country.”

The event was organised to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 

‘Need for speed’

Alan Edge, Campaign Officer of Ban Conversion Therapy at LGBT Ireland, told The Journal that the organisation wants to ensure that the commitment that the Government have made to ban conversion therapy is swift, comprehensive and that it applies to all LGBT people, including those who are trans.

“We’re very encouraged by the assurance that Minister O’Gorman has given that this has been prioritised. We understand the rationale for seeking research, but we feel that this event is an important forum in which to emphasise the need for speed,” he said.

“We are reassured, but we want to send a clear message that this is a ladder that can’t be kicked into the long grass.”

Edge said that while he expects the research will look into the sorts of conversion practices that are happening, it likely won’t give us an idea of the extent.

“The reason for that really is because these these interventions happen in dark places, and it’s just not always possible to reach into those dark places. But we as a nation know the harm that can be caused by ignoring things that are happening in dark places,” he said.

We certainly have evidence that it is happening. The evidence often comes from people who are reaching out to support services. They’re not people who are thrusting themselves into the public limelight to talk about it, because this is a very traumatic experience for people. It’s often quite raw, quite fresh, and with long-lasting impacts.

“So we recognise that there is a global movement behind banning conversion therapy, and even if it’s not happening every time in every village, it definitely is happening, and the effects are so devastating, potentially for people that we need the government to take action.”

Conversion therapy has been banned in fourteen other countries around the world to date, including in Canada, France and New Zealand.

The UK Government was also expected to announce a ban on conversion therapy, but the plans were dropped in March. 

A UK government spokesman said they had decided to look at how existing law could be applied more effectively as well as “other non-legislative measures”.

“There was a wide public consultation UK-wide, as a result of which there was a clear demand for a ban. The Tory government at the last minute announced that they would exclude Trans people and they would exclude people who had ‘consented’,” Edge said. 

“Both of those issues are clearly extremely problematic, not least the trans exclusionary piece, which we view as just nakedly discriminatory.”

He said it’s positive that Wales and Scotland have already indicated that they will move in a different direction, but stressed that the situation in Northern Ireland is different since there is currently no sitting Stormont Assembly. 

“My role is working in partnership with the Rainbow Project Northern Ireland to ensure that we have bans North and South that complement each other and to ensure that the added risk of people being removed from the jurisdiction by being driven an hour or two of the road is dealt with in the legislation,” Edge said. 

He added that he hopes the wheels will be in motion after the summer recess to introduce the ban.

“It’s not a matter for us. We know that there are processes that need to be gone through, pre-legislative scrutiny. But I think today on in the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Homophobia, it’s a really useful time for us just to raise our voices and say that this is a matter that needs to be prioritized and that needs to be acted on now.”

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