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Andy Burnham pledges to fight gay blood ban if he's Labour leader

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 18/08/2015

Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham delivers a speech in Manchester yesterday
Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham delivers a speech in Manchester yesterday

Andy Burnham will fight to overturn Northern Ireland's ban on gay men donating blood if he becomes Labour's next leader.

Mr Burnham vowed he would press for what he said were fundamental issues of equality and rights.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which has an outright ban on blood donations from gay men.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it was a matter for the devolved administration. However, Mr Burnham pledged he would challenge Mr Hunt on the issue if he won the Labour leadership race.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, he says: "The whole area of sexual and gender rights in Northern Ireland needs to take a major step forward.

"I know Labour Party members are at the forefront of the campaigning in the province, and again they have my support.

"I have been highly critical in Parliament of Jeremy Hunt for his refusal to support equality across the UK in respect of blood donation from gay men, and, as leader, I will use every opportunity to press the Tory Government on these fundamental issues of equality and rights."

Mr Burnham is one of four candidates in the Labour leadership race. He had been the early favourite to succeed Ed Miliband, who stood down after losing the last general election. But left-wing rival Jeremy Corbyn has shot to the top of the polls and is backed by the two biggest unions.

Mr Burnham says today it is clear that Labour is facing a choice of direction. The leadership hopeful also underlines his opposition to academic selection.

"The continued existence of selective education in Northern Ireland is opposed by the Labour Party in Northern Ireland and, as leader, they will have my full support in campaigning against it," he states.

He also repeats his belief that the Labour Party should field candidates here.

The party has around 350 members in Northern Ireland but does not stand candidates in elections.

Mr Burnham says: "If elected leader, I will support a review of the prohibition on Labour Party candidates and will seek the views of the Irish Labour Party as to how best we can assist the Labour Party members and supporters."

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