Ireland is now a more diverse and welcoming country, but challenges remain according to Equality Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

The minister was addressing delegates attending the Rainbow Cities Network Conference in Cork today.

He told the gathering in a video message that LGBTI+ people continue to experience "unacceptable levels of harassment, violence and discrimination".

However, the minister said it is a Government priority "to legislate for hate crime and hate speech, to ensure that Ireland is a safe and secure place for all".

Minister O'Gorman cited the recent publication of the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, as well as a review currently being undertaking by his Department of all equality legislation, as examples of the work being done.

He also signalled the publication later this month of research commissioned by his department into conversion therapy, the prohibition of which, he said, is a key Government priority.

Some 28 delegates from the 20 Rainbow Cities Network across the world are in Cork for the two-day conference, which aims to draw up draft guidelines on how cities can be safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTI+ communities.

The guidelines are to be formally launched on St Patrick's Day in Kotor, Montenegro.

The conference is being hosted by Cork City Council and the Cork LGBTI+ Inter Agency Group, which is made up of public agencies in the city, including the HSE, gardaí, the Naval services and TUSLA.

Siobhán O'Dowd, who is chair of the Cork LGBTI+ Inter Agency Group, said Cork is the only rainbow city on the island of Ireland, but is looking forward to other cities joining the global network.

"We were honoured to be asked to host a Rainbow Cities Network policy event and are working very hard to make sure we come up with those draft guidelines and that delegates get to network, and share best practice, which is what the Rainbow City Network is all about," she said.

Cork City has been a member of the network since 2020.

Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Deirdre Forde said membership offers a collective and collaborative approach to "meaningfully address policies to tackle the discrimination, hate and inequality consistently faced by the LGBTI+ community".