The health minister of Northern Ireland has decided to retain the current ban on gay people donating blood, citing two works of research which he claims strengthened his position.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, he said that the restriction was not just restricted to gay people, attempting to deflate accusations of homophobia, which he has faced in the past.

Mr Poots said: “I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood… And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about those people being able to give blood.”

Sue Ramsey, chairwoman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee, moved to criticise the decision quickly. The Sinn Fein MLA told the BBC: “We are crying out for blood donation… we have had to bring in blood from England, Scotland and Wales because we need it… There are people here willing to give blood and anybody who has given blood, it will be screened, so we shouldn’t be going down this line of his own prejudice coming into play.”

Kieran McCarthy, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Alliance Party, said that it was ‘unacceptable to discriminate like this,’ adding: “It is shocking that a minister in our executive is sending out this message. Do we really want Northern Ireland to be portrayed like this?”

Mr McCarthy added: “This is about equality, by banning gay men from donating blood, Edwin Poots is denying them their human rights. I would ask him to reconsider his decision on this issue.”