Northern Ireland: LGBT activists stage rainbow protest during Health Minister’s visit

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Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots had his visit to a Derry hospital briefly eclipsed by the sight of a rainbow flag, held in protest over his anti-gay views.

Shá Gillespie, a local LGBT activist and former chairperson of Foyle Pride, was pictured behind Mr Poots holding a rainbow pride flag at Altnagelvin Hospital on Tuesday.

She told GCN: “I decided to protest because I’m sick of this man dictating to me how I should live my life. A woman is not allowed the right to choose what happens to her own body, there lifetime ban on gay blood donation and he is against gay adoption!”

“The man is a bigot and everyone knows that, it’s time for him to go!”

Mr Poots, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has unsuccessfully attempted to prevent civil partners and unmarried couples from adopting children in the province, spending £40,000 of public money in the process.

He has also spent £37,112 in trying to maintain Northern Ireland’s lifetime ban on gay men giving blood.

In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood under the advice from SaBTO, the UK Government’s Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs Advisory Committee.

But Mr Poots decided to keep the lifetime ban for Northern Ireland – against SaBTO’s guidelines.

The High Court in Belfast ruled Mr Poots breached the ministerial code in continuing the ban in October.

It now falls to UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to quash the ban in Northern Ireland.

However, DUP First Minister Peter Robinson has warned the matter could have “serious implications for devolution”.

Lawyers at the UK Department of Health (DH) are currently assessing the legal ramifications of any response.

A DH spokesperson said to PinkNews: “We are currently considering the potential implications of this judgment. In England, we have made a different decision on the actual issue. In considering any health policy issue that affects all countries in the UK, we will focus on the implications for devolution.”