Current Affairs

Northern Ireland’s gay blood ban could finally be lifted as DUP leaves Health brief

Nick Duffy May 26, 2016
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Northern Ireland could finally lift its unsubstantiated permanent ban on men who have sex with men donating blood.

In England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men can give blood if they abstain from sex for 12 months – whereas in Northern Ireland they are banned for life.

Since 2011, the country’s power-sharing executive has had successive Health ministers from the anti-LGBT Democratic Unionist Party, who have refused to shift on the policy.

Former DUP minister Edwin Poots fought a costly legal battle to keep the ban despite the Health department admitting to having “no evidence” whatsoever for it. His replacement Jim Wells, who described LGBT pride as ‘repugnant’ and claimed gay parents abuse children, unsurprisingly also failed to make progress.

However, the position of Health Minister has now been handed to Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin following the Stormont elections, and activists are hopeful that without the DUP blocking the issue, they could finally see change.

Sinn Féin had pledged to end the blood ban in its manifesto.

Speaking to the BBC, the freshly-appointed minister steered clear of an immediate direct promise but said: “Let me talk about all those issues within the department and with my executive colleagues.’

Gavin Boyd of The Rainbow Project said: “‘We congratulate Minister O’Neill on her appointment and hope the continue our positive engagements with her in the coming mandate however, we must also call on her to immediately remove the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

“The Court of Appeal has made it clear that this policy decision lies with the Minister for Health and therefore there is no need for consultation with other executive ministers. This illogical policy could and should be removed immediately.”

In England and Wales, the government is currently reviewing whether to relax the blood ban further, or alter it so it operates on factors other than sexuality.

More: DUP, Michelle O'Neill, Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein

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