Northern Ireland’s first minister-designate Michelle O’Neill reveals top LGBTQ+ priorities
First minister-designate Michelle O’Neill has said banning conversion therapy would be one of her top priorities if an executive is formed in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to PinkNews at its Summer Pride Reception in Stormont, O’Neill said Northern Ireland’s elected representatives should form an executive so they can legislate “on the basis of equality”.
“Firstly, I’m delighted to be here at the PinkNews event tonight, it’s absolutely fabulous to be back here in person, to be championing the LGBTQ community’s rights because I think that’s so important,” O’Neill said.
“I said throughout the election campaign that I want to be a first minister for all and I am determined to deliver on that promise. The promise of a society that is about diversity, about inclusion, about respecting all of our citizens and making sure that everybody feels [they have a place].”
O’Neill promised to advance work on “banning so-called conversion therapy” in Northern Ireland if the DUP agrees to re-enter into power-sharing.
She also said elected representatives must draft a “strategy to make sure we actually fulfil people’s aspirations for the future across all issues in society”.
“These are all the things I’m determined to do and I want all the other ministers around the executive table, but we must – whenever we do go into parliament – actually legislate for people… on the basis of fairness, on the basis of equality, and on the basis of acceptance.”
Michelle O’Neill: DUP’s participation at LGBTQ+ event shows ‘things are moving on’ in Northern Ireland
O’Neill’s comments came immediately after she took part in a panel discussion on the future of LGBTQ+ rights in Northern Ireland. She was joined by DUP MLA Pam Cameron, Alliance MLA Eóin Tennyson, UUP leader Doug Beattie and SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole.
The DUP has historically opposed any advances in LGBTQ+ rights and individual party members have repeatedly faced stinging criticism for making inflammatory remarks about gay people.
Speaking to PinkNews, O’Neill said the DUP’s willingness to take part in a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ rights is a sign that “things are moving on” in Northern Ireland.
I encourage those in the DUP and others that perhaps have a more aggressive approach to things to join with the rest of us.
However, she said “some political parties have a big job of work to do to catch up with the rest of us” when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.
“When you’re a legislator your job is to deliver legislation based on fairness and equality, not based on religious beliefs, so I encourage those in the DUP and others that perhaps have a more aggressive approach to things to join with the rest of us. Let’s build a better society for everybody who lives here.”
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During the panel discussion, O’Neill reissued her call for the DUP to re-enter power sharing in a bid to advance LGBTQ+ rights in Northern Ireland, saying the public expect their elected representatives to “work together”.
“I think we have a huge opportunity here and I urge Pam [Cameron] and her team to come back into the executive and to help the rest of us deliver [on LGBTQ+ rights],” O’Neill said.
“You’ve made commitments around equality but we need to see that being delivered. You need an executive, you need an assembly sitting.”
Elsewhere in the discussion, Alliance MLA Eóin Tennyson opened up about his experience of growing up gay, saying he was told it was “wrong” to be gay at school.
Those on the panel also discussed Northern Ireland’s crisis in trans healthcare and lack of inclusive education in schools, with most expressing strong support for reform.