Poots launches attack on judiciary
Judges in Northern Ireland have taken law making powers from the Stormont Assembly following a successful legal challenge to blood donations by homosexual people, it was claimed.
Health minister Edwin Poots launched a withering attack on the judiciary. He also accused Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams of not reporting his paedophile brother Liam to the authorities during heated exchanges at Stormont.
A recent Court of Appeal judgment paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland and upheld a challenge to current legislation. The minister said he was reluctant to appeal again against the ruling after his request for another hearing was denied by the UK's highest court.
"What we have witnessed is a degree of judicial activism that means that judges are making the laws, as opposed to Parliament or in this case the devolved administration making the laws," he added.
"I was well within my rights to say that if every other country in Europe except two, if every country in North America and most of the western world are maintaining a lifetime ban why are we rushing headlong into this?
"If we have a system that is working why should I take any element of risk in that instance."
A single homosexual person can adopt in Northern Ireland but a couple in a civil partnership cannot. Unmarried couples in Great Britain can apply jointly to be considered for adoption irrespective of sexual orientation.
A challenge to the legislation was mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, supported by an unidentified lesbian who wanted to enter a civil partnership and to be able to adopt her partner's biological child.
The commission challenged the law on the grounds that certain provisions were unjustifiably discriminatory to those in homosexual relationships, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that legislation that prevents civil partners adopting was unlawful.
Mr Poots' Department of Health then applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law. That court recently said the department's argument for appeal did not meet the criteria.
The senior Democratic Unionist minister said he feared a "circling of the wagons" among judges in England.
He has stated that his stance on blood from gay donors is based on the need to ensure public safety rather than any bias on his part.
But the MLA accused judges in Great Britain of undermining religious values.
"Shame on the courts for going down the road of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics, Christian morals, which this society was based on and gave us a very good foundation," he added.
Separately, he criticised Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams over his handling of sex abuse allegations against his brother by a family member, a matter which is under investigation by the attorney general.
"There is a standard in life that people expect and when people are aware of paedophile activities taking place they should report it," he said.
"The leader of Sinn Fein, the president, was aware and he believed it and he did not report it."
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin welcomed the passing of the party's motion in the Assembly, calling on the Health Minister to lift the blood donations ban.
The Foyle MLA and chair of the Assembly's health committee said it was a vote in favour of equality and against discrimination.
"The ban on blood donations from members of the gay community is clearly out of step with the majority of society and Edwin Poots needs to reverse that ban," she said.
"A judge has already ruled that the minister is in breach of the ministerial code and has behaved irrationally when it came to this legislation.
"Public confidence needs to be restored and the minister has already made a fool of himself and wasted public money by fighting equality."
Amid rowdy scenes in the chamber involving Mr Poots and Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane he accused the republican party of being more interested in covering up for their "paedophile-protecting president" than serving the needs of the community.
He was warned about his language by Assembly Speaker William Hay.