Northern Ireland: Government spent £40,000 defending gay blood ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Northern Irish government spent over £40,000 defending a decision to keep a permanent ban on gay men donating blood.

In 2011 England, Wales and Scotland changed the rules on blood donation to allow men to give blood if they have no had sex with another man for a year.

However, the DUP’s then-Health Minister Edwin Poots refused to lift the lifetime ban for men who have had sex with men in Northern Ireland.

After a protracted legal battle, earlier this month a judge ruled that Mr Poots’ decision to uphold a ban on gay men giving blood was the result of religious bias.

Answering a question from Green Party MLA Steven Agnew, the Department of Health said the cost of the legal fight was £39,100.

Mr Poots was recorded 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.”

Mr Justice Treacy said in his ruling: “If health was, as the Minister claimed, the sole basis underpinning the impugned decision, no question of any assault on Christian principles or morals could conceivably arise.”

Mr Poots has since been replaced as Health Minister by DUP colleague Jim Wells – who believes that gay pride is “repugnant”.