By Seoirse Mulgrew
Galway native and NUI Galway student, Ella Ní Cheallaigh, is one of the public relations officers behind the Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC), which launched on Tuesday, April 13.
The ACTC is made up of young activists from different political parties in the State and in Northern Ireland, with the aim to ban the practice of conversion therapy in Ireland.
Ms Ní Cheallaigh described the “sense of urgency” that formed the cross-party group.
“You’d think that conversion therapy would be illegal here but in the six years since the marriage referendum we’ve had nothing but this bill from Fintan Warfield,” she said.
“We all came together out of a need to get it done, it’s been six years and a lot can happen in those six years to so many different people. So many people could have been hurt by the fact that this still happens,” she said.
Conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment proposed to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.
The ACTC will support Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield’s Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018.
The legislation seeks “to prohibit conversion therapy, as a deceptive and harmful act or practice against a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression,” he said.
Ms Ní Cheallaigh described witnessing historic events such as the Marriage Equality Referendum while still in school and her reason for joining the group.
“I’m a part of the LGBTQ+ community myself and I was in primary school when the marriage referendum happened and I was in secondary school when repeal the eighth happened so I haven’t got a chance to really get too heavily involved,” she said.
“There’s only four countries in the world that actually have it fully illegal, Malta, Ecuador, Germany, and Brazil and we want to be the fifth,” she said.
“We hope it’ll pass through the Oireachtas but we’re going to keep going until we get it right,” she said.
City Councillor, Owen Hanley, condemns the “deeply inhumane” practice.
“Conversion therapy is a deeply inhumane practice. Whether it’s rooted in ignorance or hatred, the damaging practice is rooted in a hurtful premise that LGBT+ people can be ‘corrected’,” he said.
“It’s great to see young activists across parties and none pushing for conversion therapy to be banned across this island,” he said.
“The Social Democrats have committed to supporting the end of conversion therapy in our LGBT+ Rights Charter and we will support cross party efforts to ban the practice,” he said.
As well as independent activists, the group includes members from the Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, Fianna Fáil, People Before Profit, Labour, the Green Party, Aontú, the SDLP and UUP.