Northern Ireland’s new Health Minister vows to be ‘guided by science’ on gay blood ban

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Northern Ireland’s new Health Minister has vowed to be “guided by science” on the gay blood ban – which his predecessors refused to lift with no evidence to support them.

Former DUP Health Minister Jim Wells and his predecessor Edwin Poots both refused to lift the permanent ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland, despite the Health department admitting to having “no evidence” whatsoever to continue the ban.

In England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men can only give blood if they abstain from sex for 12 months – whereas in Northern Ireland they are banned for life.

So far the DUP government has refused to follow the rest of the UK in introducing a deferral system – despite losing court action after the Northern Irish Department of Health admitted it had no evidence to back a lifetime ban.

However, new Health Minister Simon Hamilton – appointed this month after Mr Wells was sacked for claiming gay parents are more likely to abuse children – has vowed to take a more rational approach to the issue.

The new DUP minister 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.

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

However, he did not make any specific stance on the issue known.