Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Health Minister Poots' spends £100,000 on gay blood ban and same-sex adoption row

Costs of gay blood donor and same-sex adoption rows soar

Under fire: Health Minister Edwin Poots

The Health Minister has spent almost £100k of public money banning gay men from donating blood and appealing a High Court decision that a ban on civil partners adopting children is illegal.

The amount was revealed after Green Party leader Steven Agnew asked Edwin Poots to clarify how much his legal costs were for these court cases in the Assembly last week.

Mr Agnew asked the minister how much his department had spent on legal costs defending his stance on the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

Mr Poots said that to date, his department has incurred legal costs of £37,112 (net of VAT) in relation to this case.

Mr Agnew then asked the minister how much he had spent on legal costs appealing the High Court decision that a ban on civil partners adopting children was illegal.

Mr Poots revealed he has spent around £17k so far on legal costs in respect of the appeal proceedings.

In July it was revealed that prior to the High Court decision, Mr Poots had spent £40k on legal costs trying to prevent same-sex couples being able to adopt in Northern Ireland.

Mr Poots has now been given leave by the Court of Appeal in Belfast to appeal the High Court ruling and the case is expected to go before the Supreme Court in England.

Mr Agnew urged Mr Poots to stop using public money to "promote his own agenda".

The MLA said: "The minister revealed he had spent around £17,000 appealing the High Court decision ruling that the ban on people in a civil partnership adopting children was illegal.

"During the ruling Lord Justice Girvan said the Department of Health hadn't put forward any justification to exclude same-sex couples as parties eligible to adopt as a couple.

"And yet Minister Poots is still considering spending more public money to fight this decision."

Mr Agnew said he believes Mr Poots is using public money to "promote his own ideological stance on this matter when the remit of his job as minister is to be responsible for the health of the people of Northern Ireland".

He also reminded the minister there are around 2,500 children currently in care in Northern Ireland.

"If he goes ahead with this appeal, the minister will show that he is happy to limit the pool of potential parents able to offer a loving and stable environment to children who need it most and it would also mean Northern Ireland is legally out of step with the rest of the UK again."

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