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Northern Ireland’s gay blood ban is doing basically nothing to ‘protect’ blood supply

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Blood-bottle

Northern Ireland is making no significant difference to the safety of its blood supply by permanently banning gay men.

 

Northern Ireland’s blood ban is doing nothing, a court heard 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.

Successive Health Ministers in Northern Ireland have refused to lift the permanent ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland, fighting a costly legal battle despite the Health department admitting to having “no evidence” whatsoever to continue the ban.

Edwin-Poots-social-media-imageAmid a legal challenge to the rule, the Court of Appeal this week heard that former Health Minister Edwin Poots insisted on keeping the rule in place because he was scared of ‘contamination’, despite increased testing and the weight of scientific evidence.

It’s actually one every 15,625 years, by our maths, so we’re due a mix-up by the year 17,640… and we’re hoping HIV will be eradicated long before then

Adding that the DUP minister had defied professional advice on the issue, Mr Scoffield said: “The minister’s own professional adviser was supporting the change, the chief medical officer was supporting the change.”

Current Health Minister Simon Hamilton, who vowed to be guided by science on the issue, has so far ducked calls to end the ban.

NI minister ‘had right’ to keep ban on gay men giving blood

Logo for Irish TimesAlan Erwin

Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 17:03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edwin Poots

A High Court previously ruled that it was “irrational” for former Nothern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots to maintain the ban on blood donations from gay men. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Former Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots was entitled to go against the rest of the UK in maintaining the ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Challenging a ruling that the prohibition was irrational, counsel for Mr Poots and his ministerial successors argued that devolved powers gave them the right to take a different position on the prohibition.

Attempts are being made to overturn a finding that the Democratic Unionist MLA did not have power to keep the lifetime ban on donations from gay men.

A High Court judge held that his decision was irrational and “infected” with apparent bias.

Mr Poots was also held to have breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive, and seemingly been influenced by his Christian beliefs in maintaining the lifetime ban.

The ban on gay men giving blood, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

It was replaced by new rules which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.

But Mr Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

The findings against him were made in a legal action taken by a gay man granted anonymity in the case and referred to as JR65.

Challenges to the verdict have been continued by Mr Poots’ DUP ministerial successors and the British health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Gillen and Weir, are examining issues about whether authority for blood policy is a devolved matter.

The hearing at the Court of Appeal in Belfast had been put on hold pending the outcome of a European Court of Justice case.

In April it ruled that a lifetime ban may be justified in member states, but only if there are no effective detection techniques.

The court heard that following the judgment from Europe an assessment on whether the ban is proportionate will now have to be carried out.

Mr Poots was held to have acted irrationally by maintaining the ban on gay donations while importing blood from other countries who do accept MSM (males who have sex with other males) donors.

But barrister Margaret Gray, representing the Stormont department of health, argued that Northern Ireland is largely self sufficient in its own blood supplies.

There is little need to widen the pool of donations from outside, she contended.

“On the basis of that evidence it was reasonable for the minister to make the decision,” she said.

Ms Gray also emphasised one of the consequences of powers being devolved within theUnited Kingdom.

“There’s no requirement that all parts of the UK decide a particular issue in the same way – that’s the essence of devolved decision making.

“It’s apparent in this context of blood donations that (EU) member states enjoy a discretion; that discretion is also felt between parts of a member state.”

During the hearing it was stressed that any increased risk of infected blood, no matter how small, was an issue of public safety.

JR65’s legal team claimed it was illogical to maintain the permanent ban on gay men while deferral criteria for promiscuous heterosexuals is lax.

But Ms Gray said: “If there’s sufficient basis to determine there’s a high risk attaching to MSM, the fact that other categories who are also deemed to be high risk but not treated in the same way should not render the rest of the decision irrational.”

Meanwhile, Tony McGleenan QC, for Mr Hunt, argued that it was for locally elected representatives to deal with the issue of gay blood donations in Northern Ireland.

The appeal continues.

Edwin Poots: ban on gay blood was biased, High Court rules

Previously we have commented and written about the ex-Minister Edwin Poots apparent bias (prejudice) against the LGBT community.

 

2013/9/19 – Article on Minister’s use of public funds defending the appeal againsgt his ban on gay blood donations and gay adoption.

2013/9/21 – Petition for Minister’s resignation

2014/12/25 – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended the end of a three-decade ban on blood donations

 

Former Stormont's Health minister Edwin Poots.Today we are reprinting the news article from BBC News reporting on the judicial case and Mr Justice Treacy’s comments  that the Ban by Edwin Poots ‘infected by apparent bias’.  The verdict strengthens a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban is irrational.

 

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

A former health minister’s ban on the donation of blood from gay men in Northern Ireland was “infected by apparent bias”, a court has ruled.

A judge also backed claims from lawyers for a gay man that Edwin Poots’ stance was influenced by Christian beliefs.

The High Court ruling strengthens a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban was irrational.

Mr Poots, who is to appeal that ruling, was replaced as Stormont’s health minister last year.

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

The minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by his religious views

It was replaced by new rules which allow donations from gay men who had not had sexual contact with another man for more than a year.

But Mr Poots maintained the prohibition in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

The minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by religious views.

But lawyers for the gay man who brought the challenge, introduced remarks made by Mr Poots in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The DUP MLA was recorded as saying: “There is a continual battering of Christian principles, and I have to say this – shame on the courts, for going down the route of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics and Christian morals, on which this society was based and which have given us a very good foundation.”

The judge cited a news article from 2001 in which Mr Poots spoke of the rights of those receiving donations to be told they were getting “clean blood” uncontaminated by the HIV virus.

He added: “The minister’s very troubling lack of candour and his attempt to conceal the fact that he had made a decision are plainly circumstances that are material to whether a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.”

 

 

Gay adoption: Northern Ireland ban lifted

BBC News : Gay adoption ruling from Supreme Court

A ban on gay and unmarried couples applying to adopt children in Northern Ireland has been removed.

They may now apply in the same way as heterosexual couples.

Health Minister Edwin Poots had tried to challenge an appeal court decision to extend adoption rights to gay couples.

However, the Supreme Court said the Department of Health’s argument for appeal did not meet the criteria.

Previously, a single gay or lesbian person could adopt children in Northern Ireland, but a couple in a civil partnership could not.

In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that the ban based on relationship status was held to discriminate against those in civil partnerships and to breach their human rights.

Northern Ireland was the only part of the United Kingdom where that policy existed.

Now, the law in Northern Ireland is in line with the rest of the UK.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Following the Court of Appeal judgement in June 2013, unmarried couples, including same sex couples, and those in a civil partnership may apply to adopt.

“The final decision regarding the granting of an adoption order will lie with the court.”

 

Further reading and links:

  1. BBC News

Has everyone registered to vote who has signed the Poots resignation petition?

Since Monday, over 7,500 people have signed an online petition calling for Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots MLA to resign or be removed from his post as a result of his funding of appeals against decisions of the High Court. The petition can be found on Avaaz.org’s site here.

The petition reads:

“We call on the Northern Ireland Assembly to seek the resignation of Edwin Poots, or for his removal from his post as Health Minister and thus bring to an end his disgraceful waste of public money in pursuit of a personal ”

Why is this important?

Edwin Poots is squandering public money in the pursuit of a personal agenda against unmarried and same sex couples, diverting essential funding from vital and vastly over-stretched NHS services which benefit the entire population. Mr Poots should resign or be removed from his post as Health Minister to end this wanton action.

While public health and social care services struggle to make ends meet, Mr Poots has spent, to date, £17,000 in an effort to ensure unmarried and same sex couples are denied the opportunity to adopt children in turn, denying children the best opportunity to a loving and stable family environment.

Justifying his action with 7 year old data which, by his own department’s admission, is flawed in the very way in which it was obtained, he intends to continue this campaign at the High Court, with the approximate final cost being £40,000.

Mr Poots has also wasted £37,000 in ensuring gay men who wish to donate blood are denied from doing so. This is at complete odds with blood donation advice in every other part of the UK and demonstrates utter incompetence and complete disregard for the public purse and more importantly, the NHS he has stewardship over.

Already signed? Want to make your voice heard?

RegistertoVoteWhen you have signed the petition there is another way to make sure your voice is heard in the democratic process – make sure that you are registered to vote.

The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland is conducting its General Canvass at the moment with registration day being 27 September 2013. By now, all residents of Northern Ireland should have received a registration form. If you have not, please go to the Electoral Office’s website to register there.

Speaking at the launch of the canvass Graham Shields, the Chief Electoral Officer, said;

‘Being on the Electoral Register safeguards your democratic right to vote and ensures that you have your say in elections. Even if you don’t intend to exercise your right to vote, it still remains a legal obligation to register. Registering to vote is easy and I would ask everyone to take just a few minutes to complete the registration form and return it to us by the 27 September deadline.’

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