Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster is expected to meet with LGBT+ groups “in the coming weeks”, it has been confirmed.
The Northern Ireland Executive Office confirmed the news on Thursday (22 April). It will mark the first time a Stormont first minister has met with LGBT+ organisations.
Foster will be joined in the meetings by deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill, a spokesperson told Belfast Live.
Foster’s DUP has faced sharp criticism from the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland in recent days after it pushed back against a motion calling for conversion therapy to be banned in the Assembly.
There was significant controversy last week when the DUP proposed an amendment to Doug Beattie and John Stewart’s motion on conversion therapy.
On Wednesday (21 April), campaign group Ban Conversion Therapy NI said it reached out to the DUP on 14 April in an effort to meet with MLAs ahead of the conversion therapy debate.
The group said it did this “in good faith” so they could “explain the importance of a ban on conversion practices in every setting in which they happen”.
However, Ban Conversion Therapy NI said it never received a response from the DUP. The group went on to meet with four of the five political parties in the Assembly – the Alliance Party, the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).
Arlene Foster wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening (21 April) that her party will not support a ban unless it includes “safeguards for churches”.
A spokesperson for the party told Belfast Live: “We will not support, indeed we will veto, any legislation which does not contain robust protections for churches.”
Communities minister Deirdre Hargey has promised to bring forward legislation, and the department has confirmed that officials are currently conducting research to establish how a ban should be implemented.