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Health Minister Michelle O'Neill urged to lift ban on gay blood donations

By Noel McAdam

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill has been urged to overturn the ban on gay blood donations - just a week after taking office.

The Sinn Fein minister has been sent a written Assembly question demanding action on the issue by new Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong.

It comes after the Court of Appeal ruled the Stormont Health Minister should decide whether the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood here should be lifted.

"Successive DUP ministers dragged their feet on this matter, allowing a discriminatory practice to continue long after it should have been removed," Ms Armstrong said.

"Yet we are almost a week into the new Assembly term and the Sinn Fein minister has still to make moves towards removing the blood ban. This issue has been discussed at length - it is time to stop the talking and take action."

After tabling her question, the Strangford MLA added: "It is time this era of blatant discrimination and second-class citizenship was ended, and true equality was brought to our society."

In March the court dismissed an earlier ruling that former Health Minister Edwin Poots had acted irrationally or with apparent bias by keeping the ban in place. The Appeal Court judges also held there was no basis for concluding that Mr Poots' decision had been pre-determined by his Christian beliefs.

On a 2-1 majority, the judges concluded the current maintenance of the lifetime ban was not "disproportionate or contrary to EU law".

Originally put in place during the AIDS virus threat of the 1980s, the ban was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

Belfast Telegraph


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