A section to consider the ‘extent and nature’ of conversion therapy in Ireland before moving on to ban

The Department of Pediatrics commissioned more research into the practice of conversion therapy in Ireland before advancing plans to ban the controversial practice, it has emerged.

The delay in banning the practice in the Republic, an obligation contained in the government’s programme, comes after it has been determined that research is necessary to determine how widespread, and where it occurs, before legislation is passed to ban it.

Minister Roderick O’Gorman said in April that a survey paper on the issue had been prepared for the Ministry of Health to make further proposals to ban shunt therapy.

Practice refers to any form of psychological intervention aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation.

It is usually performed in places without qualified medical supervision.

In May a subgroup of the Government’s Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Steering Committee was set up and met twice to promote the issue, but the ministry recently decided more research was needed on the prevalence of conversion therapy in Ireland.

A spokesperson for O’Gorman said, “We need to look at the extent and nature of that here.

“Obviously you need a proper evidence base for any law, and if you’re making a law something that comes with a ban, you need to be very clear what activity you’re looking to ban.”

They said there is a lack of data and research available on the practice of conversion therapy in the republic, and wherever it might occur.

They said this could include non-clinical practices such as religious places.

It is expected that this research will not be completed for several months with work on drafting legislation due to start in 2022.

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A recent debate in Northern Ireland about banning conversion therapy has led to a renewed focus on the government’s commitment to ban it here.

In March, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said rushing to ban the practice in Northern Ireland could lead to ineffective laws enabling it to continue.

Sinn Féin’s Hargi said she would like to introduce the bill immediately, but told MLAs she had received expert advice that more time was needed to ensure that no watertight legislation was in place.

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Democratic Unionist Party [DUP] He opposed a ban on conversion therapy. Former leader Arlene Foster was seen as opposing the policy earlier this year when she abstained from a vote in Stormont on the ban – a move that precipitated a party hardliners’ plot to remove her from her top position.

In 2018, Senator Sinn Warfield proposed a ban in the republic with The bill to ban conversion therapies.

Conversion therapy is prohibited as “a deceptive and harmful act or practice against a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or sexual expression.”

Nearly 20 senators co-signed Warfield’s bill when it was first introduced, but it was only in Seanad that it made it to the committee stage.

This week, the Irish Psychological Association reiterated its position that conversion therapy “has no place in any modern society”.

“Even calling it ‘treatment’ is an insult to the work we do as psychologists and adds a layer of credibility it doesn’t deserve,” said Ian O’Grady, president of PSI.

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