It’s been revealed Northern Ireland’s Health Minister used £40,000 of public money in order to fund a legal challenge to prevent same-sex couples from being allowed to adopt children.

The DUP’s Assembly Member Edwin Poots has been criticised by the country’s Alliance Party.

“He cannot be allowed to continue spending public money in this way and must be stopped,” Assembly Member Kieran McCarthy said.

Mr Poots wants to overturn a ruling in favour of same-sex adoption.

In October 2012 Belfast High Court declared that Northern Ireland’s ban had discriminated against same-sex couples in civil partnerships and also breached their right to family life.

Equality campaigners welcomed the ruling, but just hours later Mr Poots confirmed that he was formally going to appeal the decision.

As a result, adoption rights for same-sex couples were put on hold.

Mr Poots, an evangelical Protestant who remains opposed to same-sex relationships, was accused of allowing his “personal prejudices” to influence public policy by the director of Northern Ireland’s Rainbow Project.

The £40,000 cost of Mr Poots’ legal challenge on behalf of Northern Ireland’s Department of Health was revealed in a letter to the Stormont Assembly. 

He may take his appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

Alliance Party Assembly Member Kieran McCarthy said: “This campaign led by the Health Minister on behalf of the DUP has been a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money.

“I am appealing to the Minister to accept the court’s decision and cease any future legal action.

“This law not only affects same-sex couples, but also unmarried heterosexual couples and it is unacceptable that both these groups are prevented from providing a stable and loving home to the many children in our social care system in need of one.”

Last year, Mr Poots also angered equality campaigners when he decided to retain Northern Ireland’s blanket ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

England, Wales and Scotland changed the law in November 2011 and opted for a one-year deferral, meaning gay and bisexual can donate providing they remain celibate for 12 months.