Northern Ireland Health Minister Jim Wells backs gay blood ban

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Northern Ireland’s new Health Minister Jim Wells has said he supports the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

The ban was removed in England, Wales and Scotland in 2011, but continues to be in place in Northern Ireland. Former Health Minister Edwin Poots kept the ban in place, ostensibly as a matter of public safety, but a judge recently ruled that his decision was affected by “religious bias“.

The Northern Ireland government has spent £40,000 of public money fighting to keep the ban in place.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: “I can’t comment at all on the legal proceedings as it is still before the Court of Appeal.”

“I have huge admiration for Edwin Poots and I think you’ll find that there will not be a lot of difference between myself and Edwin Poots on any of these issues. We are singing off the same hymn sheet, as it were.

“So, therefore, we will continue the policy, but I’m not going to comment on the actual rights and wrongs of it because that might be quoted in a future court case.”

He was also asked about the recent coming out of Republic of Ireland Health Minister Leo Varadkar. He said: “I don’t think it is really my role to make any comment on any personal statement he makes, and the same way I wouldn’t expect him to make any comment on any statement I make.

“I noted the comment made on RTE at the weekend but that will not change one iota how I deal with Leo.”

On being asked if he worried about being seen as anti-gay, he said: ” I think you need to distinguish what people would see as anti-gay and people believing in traditional values.

“I’ll make no bones about it: I believe in traditional marriage. I believe in people having children within marriage. I believe in what most people see as traditional relationships. I believe they have to be promoted.

“But equally our department is providing services for people who don’t have that view and quite a large amount of money at times. Nobody ever asks a question about a someone’s sexuality when they come to the door of a GP or clinic or hospital. Everyone is treated equally.”