Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Steven Agnew: 'Edwin Poots' waste of public money is intolerable'

Health Minister Edwin Poots
Health Minister Edwin Poots

"The Minister's decision to challenge the High Court ruling that unmarried couples and those in civil partnerships should be allowed to adopt is a disgrace...he is failing those children who have been born into families that are either unwilling or unable to meet their needs. He should be ashamed. As far as I am concerned he is unfit for office."

This is an excerpt from my October 2012 conference speech in relation to Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Some might have perceived this as cheap political point scoring, but since the costs of the legal challenge have come to light many more have joined the campaign.

In fact at the time of writing this article 8,470 people had signed a petition calling for the Health Minister to resign or be removed from his post.

The Minister took office in May 2011 and the Department of Health has spent a total of £328,521 on legal costs in the last two financial years. As well as his challenge on adoption law there are cases regarding the issues of a ban on gay men donating blood and the guidelines on abortion. Each one would appear to be ideologically driven.

All departments incur legal fees but what infuriates people is not purely the financial costs but the irrational nature of the Minister’s position, and the absence of demonstrable benefit to wider society.

I have questioned the Minister on a number of occasions for the evidence of harm to children of being raised by those in civil partnerships. I am yet to be provided with such evidence. In fact research by the American Psychological Association which reviewed 150 studies on outcomes for children with same gender parents has found no evidence to suggest the children had poorer outcomes compared with those with different gender parents.

There are approximately 2,500 children in care in Northern Ireland. We have seen recently the dangers of sexual exploitation for children growing up in care. Also children from a care background are much more likely to come in contact with the Juvenile Justice System with over one third of admissions to Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre being from a care background.

It is when these facts come to light that the true cost of the Minister seemingly pursuing his own ideology can be realised. This waste of public money is intolerable.

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