This week Eoin Fagan, UCD Science student and Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC) member, spoke to The College Tribune on the legal status of conversion therapy, cross-party support, and opposition from the DUP.
Fagan told The Tribune they have “over 200 members on both sides of the border” outlining that the ACTC is “an all-island approach to stopping conversion therapy in Ireland.” Fagan continued, telling us that “all parties across Ireland have pledged their support, aside from the DUP.”
The goal of the ACTC is to “end the harmful and barbaric practice that is conversion therapy.” Fagan described Conversion therapy as a “terrible practice, that only serves to erase the LGBTQ+ community.”
The ACTC understands that conversion therapy is legal on both sides of the border and “there are currently no laws in place to stop it, and very little progress has been made in the effort to get it banned.”
Fagan explained that there is a bill in the ‘Seanad’ since 2018, but “as of 2020 it has only reached the committee stage of the process. There are still four more stages of the Seanad to go through, and up to ten Oireachtas stages before it can be passed.”
“In Northern Ireland, they’re slightly ahead. An MLA for the alliance party in NI got a petition with 24,000 signatures brought to Stormont. It went on to pass the motion, but this is not a legally binding motion.”
Fagan stated that the ACTC were happy that the DUP’s amendment to the bill did not pass in Stormont. “The DUP tried to remove a crucial part of the bill, which looked for protection of religious institutions undertaking conversion therapy practices.”
“Now that this bill has passed, we’re calling on MLA Deirdre Hegarty to draft up legislation. However, we don’t believe any progress will be made until after the upcoming election in NI. We have to keep up the pressure after the election. There’s still a long way to go on both sides of the border.”
The ACTC are happy that “cross party support is there. Its even better that Minister Rodrick O’Gorman brought it up in the Dail. We can hope that O’Gorman’s comments can boost the process of getting the bill through. The hard work in the writing up the legislation is done and 20 ‘Seanad’ members have signed it.”
“We have a lot of ACTC members who have prominent standing in the youth wing of political parties such as Young Fine Gael, Ógra Fianna Fail, and Ógra Sinn Fein. Young Fine Gael were able to bring this to the attention of Fine Gael PP.”
“Further to the lobbying of TD’s we have a petition with 6,808 signatures (at the time of publishing) and have spoken to the Irish Examiner and RTE, so we’re getting a lot of national media attention too”
“If banning conversion therapy is out of sight in the media, its out of mind. Ireland likes to think we’re progressive in LGBTQ+ rights, but 6 years on from legalising same sex marriage, a lot of people are asking ‘why is conversion therapy still legal?’”
The ACTC say that the main opposition has been The DUP. “Aside from the usual TERF and bot accounts you find on twitter The DUP have been the only group not to endorse ending conversion therapy in all areas of Irish society.”
“When we ran an email drive asking all MLA’s to vote in favour of passing the bill, two responses from DUP MLA’s stood out. First of all was MLA Hilditch, who was quite dismissive and disrespectful. Ultimately Hilditch brought up arguments that had nothing to do with the anti ‘conversion therapy; bill at all.
“Secondly MLA Buchanan, responded to us stating: ‘The motion fails to provide protection for Christian Ministers and Pastors of the gospel who set forth the way of eternal life for all people through faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.’
“Essentially, what they’re doing is disguising their homophobia as concerns for religious freedom. At no point in either motion or bill north or south of the border, does banning conversion therapy infringe on religious freedom.”
“It is not exercising freedom of religion to try and change someone’s sexuality, ultimately that’s a form of torture.”
Student & College Support
“The main demographic of those in the coalition are college students or recent graduates, so we aim to inform the student community through student media and word of mouth about this practice and about how we can take the lead on stopping conversion therapy.”
“We’ve also reached out to student unions. The NUIG SU are currently preparing a motion to support the ACTC. We’re lobbying further with UCDSU, IADTSU and were working with USI as well.”
“If conversion therapy is still legal come the start of the new term, the SU’s need to be supporting our cause from the get-go.”
Light at the end of the tunnel?
The ACTC say that the ban on conversion therapy in Ireland depends on the amount of pressure put on politicians and groups, as well as keeping the topic fresh in peoples minds.
“If we had to guess, I would hope legislation would bring a ban on conversion therapy by the end of 2022. We do acknowledge there are a lot of bureaucratic layers to get through, but we really hope it doesn’t take another 3 years to get through.”
“We need to make sure that TD’s and The Seanad have pressure on from us. We can’t let them lose focus. There are so many people that continue to suffer under conversion therapy. For a country that champions itself on LGBTQ+ rights and human rights, this is not on.”
Luke Murphy, Co-Editor