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DUP's Jim Wells in bid to clear name over gay remarks

 

 

 

jimwells

Former health minister Jim Wells claimed his meaning had been misconstrued

DUP politician Jim Wells has launched a bid to clear his name after he was accused of linking child abuse and gay relationships.

He resigned as health minister after a tape from a hustings event in Downpatrick in April was made public.

In the tape, he said: “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.”

The minister was then interrupted by uproar from the audience.

In a later statement, he said: “I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern.”

But he told BBC NI’s Nolan Show on Wednesday that the tape was wrong in that it had been cut short and his meaning had been misconstrued.

“I want to clear my name. I want people to know that I did not say what that tape suggests,” he said.

“This tape totally misrepresented what I said in the live (session).

“The tape links my views on gay adoption and my views as to what happens to children in controversial and angry divorces.

“Had the tape gone on another two minutes we would not be having this discussion.”

Mr Wells told presenter Enda McClafferty that he only realised this when he got a complete transcript of what he had actually said at a later date.

“The tape that went out across the world stopped before I was able to explain what I meant,” he said.

“I did not say that homosexuals abused children.”

“I did say I was opposed to gay marriage, which I am.

“But then I go on to make the argument that when marriages break up – in either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship – if a marriage is in high conflict, this is almost invariably to the detriment of the child.”

Mr Wells said he felt “humiliated” by what had happened.

A police investigation is ongoing.

 

Editorial:  We have previously reported on this story, but now we ask you to make your own mind up – which side of the story do you believe, Mr Wells’ current interpretation or the recording? Comment and let us know.

 

Minister's vow on gay blood ban

Belfast Telegraph

 

Simon Hamilton (right) and Edwin Poots (left) have been at the centre of controversy over the issue of blood donations
Simon Hamilton (right) and Edwin Poots (left) have been at the centre of controversy over the issue of blood donations

Northern Ireland’s new health minister has said he will be guided by science and patient safety when deciding whether to lift the ban on blood donations from gay men.

The prohibition was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 and replaced with rules allowing them to donate a year after their last sexual encounter with another man.

Former DUP health minister Edwin Poots kept the lifetime deferral in operation in Northern Ireland, citing “blood safety” issues.

Current minister Simon Hamilton said: “I will be guided by the science and medical evidence.

“There is an emerging body of evidence…I will monitor that, I will examine it, I will look at it carefully.”

He added: “This is a matter of patient safety. We must have an assurance.”

Mr Poots lost a judicial challenge to his ban and inferred he would not get a fair hearing from a court should he appeal against the decision.

Responsibility rests with the UK Health Secretary and an appeal has been taken to try establish authority in Northern Ireland, Mr Hamilton said.

In 2013 a judge said Stormont’s health minister did not have the power to keep an “irrational” lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland.

The High Court also found that Mr Poots had breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive.

The ex-minister maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety. But a gay man granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability launched a judicial review challenge to Mr Poots’ position.

The judge heard claims that the minister had displayed apparent bias that went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice.

Sinn Fein Stormont assembly member Caitriona Ruane told Mr Hamilton it was an equality issue.

“I was glad to hear him say, however, that he will be guided by science and medical evidence, which is to be welcomed given the fact that his two predecessors based their stance on faith.

“The minister now needs to stand up and signal his intent to overturn this discriminatory ban.”

Simon Hamilton appointed Northern Ireland's health minister in DUP reshuffle

repritned from Belfast Telegraph – 11 May 2015

DUP leader Peter Robinson has appointed MLA Simon Hamilton as Northern Ireland’s health minister.

The former Stormont finance minister replaces Jim Wells, who stepped down to care for his sick wife after sparking controversy with comments about gay marriage.

The appointment was announced as part of a major reshuffle of the DUP’s ministerial team at the Assembly.

Mr Robinson made the announcements via Twitter.

Mr Hamilton said: “I look forward to getting to grips with the challenges over the next number of days.

“Even though it is a new beat for me I am well aware of the challenges.”

Jim Wells resigned last month following a public outcry over comments allegedly linking gay marriage to child abuse. He later apologised.
Video: DUP Reshuffle – Simon Hamilton appointed Northern Ireland’s health minister   He said: “I wanted to get the right people in the right positions and I believe I have done that.” Mr Wells announced his resignation two weeks ago saying he wanted to devote more time to caring for his wife who had suffered two strokes.

Video: DUP Reshuffle: Peter Robinson announces new Executive ministers
He had been facing calls to resign since the release of video footage in which he said the “facts show you certainly don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship”.

An alleged verbal altercation with a lesbian couple during an election canvass in his South Down constituency added further pressure.

The furore came at a time of intense scrutiny when the DUP was claiming the party could be ‘kingmakers’ in the event of a hung parliament and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg branded the remarks “truly backward looking”.

Mr Hamilton, a Strangford MLA, has been an effective caretaker for the department of health for the past two weeks.

He added: “I am looking forward to getting to grips with what is a challenging department and a very challenging role, particularly focusing on Transforming Your Care and that agenda of reforming our health service so that it is fit for the challenges the years ahead present.

“I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks in looking after the department. It has certainly shown all the immense challenges that are there within the department and I am looking forward to getting my teeth into them.”

Meanwhile Mr Robinson confirmed that Mervyn Storey remains as the minister for the department of social development.

In addition, Jonathan Bell was appointed as minister of department of enterprise trade and investment.

He takes over from Arlene Foster who has taken up the role as finance minister – which was previously held by Simon Hamilton.

Michelle McIlveen takes over from Jonathan Bell as junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

Following the announcement of the reshuffle Justice Minister David Ford said Mr Hamilton must “bring change in attitude to equality issues” in his role as Health Minister.

Mr Ford said:  “I would like to congratulate Simon Hamilton on his appointment and wish him well during his term in office. However, if he wants to be judged differently to his two predecessors, it is vital that he brings a change in attitude to the Health Department.

“During his first week in office, he can immediately bring an end to his Department’s legal challenge on the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood and indicate his support for adoption by civil partners.”

He added: “Bringing in a new face will be meaningless if Simon Hamilton just continues with the same attitudes as his predecessors.”

In a statement the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry congratulated the news Ministers.

Chief Executive of NI Chamber, Ann McGregor said: “NI Chamber congratulates the new Ministers who are taking up the lead in DFP, DETI and Health Departments.

“DFP Minister Foster is well briefed on the business sectors priorities for the NI budget in particular the need to focus on corporation tax as well as investment in skills and infrastructure.

“Minister Foster was very strong in DETI and we encourage Minister Bell to continue to ensure that we have a pro- business, pro enterprise agenda. A focus on growing export is essential.

“Minister Hamilton with his DFP experience should bring a new focus to Health and his understanding of balancing challenging budgets should lead to improved efficiencies in Health.”

DUP reshuffle changes

Mervyn Storey remains as DSD Minister.

Jonathan Bell appointed Enterprise Minister.

Arlene Foster appointed as Finance Minister.

Simon Hamilton appointed as Health Minister.

Michelle McIlveen appointed as Junior Minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

– See more at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/simon-hamilton-appointed-northern-irelands-health-minister-in-dup-reshuffle-31213105.html#sthash.P6lS8DQB.dpuf

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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Health Minister spends nearly £100k with no benefit for public health – and still he wants to spend more

During Assembly Question Time on Tuesday 17 September, Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots MLA defended his use of public funds for the appeal to the Supreme Court over gay adoption and the gay blood ban when asked a question put to him by Chris Lyttle MLA, one of the Alliance Party’s representatives for East Belfast asked the minister:

why he is using scarce public funds for legal cases against blood donation and adoption when his responsibility is to deliver a system that assesses the health and safety of blood donation and decides whether parental placements are in the best interests of a child. (AQT 75/11-15)

Minister defends use of funds

The DUP Minister responded:

Stormont Northern IrelandI was not aware that I went to court with anyone.  However, when someone takes you to court, you have to respond; it would be quite foolish not to do so.  It is very interesting that public money is being used by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is a publicly funded body, in taking the Government to court, and legal aid is being used.  We await the outcome of one of those cases in the not-too-distant future.  Let us just see what happens.

On the issue of gay adoption, let us be absolutely unequivocal:  I am just after saying that we need to pay attention to the public when they speak.  When the direct rule Minister held a consultation, it revealed that over 95% of the community was opposed to gay adoption.  It strikes me that some Assembly Members would prefer the courts, as opposed to this House, to make decisions.  With respect to the courts, the Assembly is elected to represent the people of Northern Ireland, and it is a crucial part of the democratic process.  We would do well to pay attention to the democratic will, and that is exactly what I am doing.  I have to say that my stance was further strengthened last week when a piece of Queen’s University Belfast research on looked-after children was published by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.  The longitudinal report, started in 2003 and published only last week, found that 99% of children who had been adopted here had stability — 99% of children in adoptive circumstances in Northern Ireland find stability.

That was because — the report included this — of the rigorous assessment process that takes place.  So I make no apologies for not repairing something that is not broken in the first place.

Responding to the supplementary question from Chris Lyttle, Edwin Poots continued:

[It] is a matter for the courts in the decisions that they make and the arguments that are put.  Let me be absolutely clear:  the European Court of Human Rights has found that there is no human right to adopt.  Let us just nail that at the outset.  This is not about adopters; it is about the children.

In Northern Ireland, we are in a different circumstance from the rest of the United Kingdom, in that we do not have as many children on the waiting list for adoption as is the case in England, Scotland and Wales.  Northern Ireland has a very robust adoption system, and I would have brought and am prepared to bring adoption legislation to the House to upgrade and improve it.  However, because others decided to rush to court, that has been delayed.  That is damaging to democracy, and I would have thought that Mr Lyttle should be a defender of democracy instead of trying to do down democracy.  He may wish to do things through the courts; I would rather do things through the ballot box.

I don’t believe for one second that Chris Lyttle is not a defender of democracy, but the Minister seems to fail to understand that Northern Ireland is subject to laws that do not originate here. Although we have devolution from the Westminster Parliament, this does not give Northern Ireland ministers the right to ignore what the courts say.

Nearly £100k spent already

money20sAs for the costs, Green Party MLA, Steven Agnew has been told by the Minister that he has spent around £40k on defence of the ban on gay men donating blood and around £40k defending the case on adoption by civil partners, with £17k in addition appealing the decision by the High Court. Steven Agnew said,

The Minister’s stance, despite the weight of evidence against him, has generated considerable expense to the public purse with zero benefit to public health in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to Steven and Chris for their work on this

I must thank both Chris Lyttle and Steven Agnew for their work raising this issue in the Assembly. Exposing what the Executive is doing with public money especially when financial budgets are tighter than many would like is one role that our MLAs are very good at doing. Many thanks to both of you, keep up the good work!

First Minister wants to ‘move Northern Ireland forward’ – pity his colleague in Health department is set to take us backwards

In October 2012 the High Court in Northern Ireland ruled that the ban on same-sex couples here adopting children is unlawful. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision in June of this year when the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s appeal was dismissed. Today we hear that the DUP Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA is appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this week the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MP MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland wrote an opinion piece for the Belfast Telegraph, it is reproduced helpfully on the DUP website. At the top of that page on their site the DUP say that the First Minister

argues that a peaceful future can only be built on mutual respect, tolerance and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the democratic process.”

Well I have news for him, the actions of his Executive colleague suggest that the DUP does not like it when the law says one thing and they want to do the opposite. As John O’Doherty from The Rainbow Project says,

It is not the place of the courts to implement the personal prejudices of Ministers.”

Like the President of NUS–USI, Rebecca Hall, I think that this is disgraceful that the Minister is using public money to fund this action.

Does the Minister not accept the ruling of the High Court as well as that of the Court of Appeal? Does he believe that the Northern Ireland government is above the law? Read more of this post

 

Originally posted at HIV Blogger: living positively