Children of any age should be able to change gender, says Green Party

The Green Party launched its manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections 2016 in the Clayton Hotel, Belfast
The Green Party launched its manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections 2016 in the Clayton Hotel, Belfast

The Green Party has proposed a law which would allow children to change gender, with no lower age limit or medical intervention before the transition.

The party, which launched its manifesto in Belfast yesterday, last night clarified that it only envisaged children changing gender if their parents consented to the change.

It said that the process could be similar to that in Argentina and would be like changing one’s name by deed poll.

Leader Steven Agnew told the News Letter that the “principle of self-identification” was behind the proposal and said that it involved “putting more trust in the individual”.

The North Down candidate said that he would largely like to see legislation which would mirror that which was introduced in the Republic of Ireland last year.

South of the border, transgender people aged over 18 are able to legally change their gender without any medical or other intervention.

However the proposal, as outlined in the Green Party’s manifesto, would go beyond the Republic’s law in that it would allow children to change gender.

The manifesto states that its candidates are committed to “bring forward a Gender Recognition Bill for Northern Ireland, on a basis of self-declaration requiring no medical diagnoses or interventions, inclusive of non-binary people and those under the age of 18, with no lower age limit, and removing the use of the Gender Recognition Register and the Gender Recognition Panel”.

The party would also seek to outlaw so-called ‘gay conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy, extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland and introduce “comprehensive mandatory age-appropriate relationships and sexual education from P1”.

In a manifesto which contains a series of proposals which have not been put forward by other parties, the Greens have also proposed to:

* Cut food waste by introducing regulations requiring surplus food from supermarkets to be offered to food banks;

* Offer “free nutritious school meals for all children in P1-P3”;

* Retain free prescriptions, but “introduce a voluntary payment scheme for those who wish to contribute to the cost of their prescriptions”;

* Raise the age of criminal responsibility;

* Reform the Province’s libel laws;

* Make it a legal requirement that at least one third of a political party’s election candidates are female.

The party also set out proposals for a pension to be paid to those seriously injured in the Troubles. In an attempt to get around the controversy about perpetrators of terrorist actions receiving a state victims pension, the Greens propose a “review panel to deal with controversial cases”.

Speaking about the manifesto and the party’s record, Mr Agnew said: “We brought to light the £100m clean-up cost of the illegal waste dump at Mobuoy. We uncovered the unauthorised sand dredgers in Lough Neagh and forced the environment minister to act.”

He added: “Northern Ireland’s economy is also under scrutiny. It needs to be sustainable. This means planning for the long term and ensuring that the decisions we make today do not damage our future.”

Huge expansion of free public transport

The Greens would significantly increase the availability of free bus and train passes.

The manifesto says that the party would extend the current free public transport for over-60s to unspecified “other users”.

When asked which groups he had in mind, leader Steven Agnew said that it would be those such as the unemployed, young people in full-time study and possibly even free public transport for everyone under the age of 25.

The manifesto also commits the party to spending £25 for every person in the Province on cycle infrastructure, something which would equate to £45 million over the next five years.

Mr Agnew acknowledged that the manifesto proposed many measures which would cost money. He said that to fund these the party would block the proposed cut in the rate of corporation tax.

And he said that the party would continue to push for an end to the rates cap which means that the most opulent houses only pay a fraction of what their actual rates bill should be.

That meant, Mr Agnew said, that “my constituents in Kilcooley [estate] subsidise those in [the wealthy village of] Cultra”.

Mr Agnew said that he believed many of those in the big houses would be happy to pay more to fund the NHS and education.