Belfast Telegraph

Gay activists call for Poots to quit at protest over blood ban

By Donna Deeney

Activists staged a noisy protest at a blood donation session in Londonderry to call for an end to the ban on gay people giving blood.

Health Minister Edwin Poots announced in June he was standing by an earlier decision not to permit gay people to donate blood — a move which angered members of the Stormont health committee.

A group of approximately 30 protesters — joined by Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan — staged a colourful demonstration, chanting “Give Poots the boot” outside the donor session at the city’s Playhouse before going inside to offer their blood.

Among those who made the symbolic gesture and had his blood refused was Mike Graham, who said it was humiliating to be excluded.

“I, like the others taking part in the protest, completed the form and answered all the questions honestly, which immediately excluded me from making a blood donation,” he said.

“The sign outside the building asks people to ‘Give blood, not excuses’, but there is a whole section of society who wants to give blood but is excluded. It makes no sense, I am an organ donor, which is okay, but it is not okay for me to donate blood. This is ridiculous,” he added.

David McCartney from the Rainbow Project was scathing of the Health Minister's refusal to allow gay people to donate blood.

He said: “The argument put forward by the Health Minister just does not add up. It is unsupportable, biased and illogical.

“He refuses to allow gay people here to donate, but yet there are times when blood is brought here from England for transfusions where gay people are allowed to donate.

“I have never heard him say the screening process used here is inadequate simply because it isn't inadequate, in fact it is quite the opposite. Edwin Poots, by his actions, could be seen as implying the screening process isn't up to that used in England.

“I have been heartened by the level of support this issue has from the straight community. One man told me on his way in that he will write on the bottom of his donation form ‘Give Poots the boot’ in solidarity with us.”

Connor Kelly, who helped organised the protest, said he hopes yesterday’s action will mark the start of similar demonstrations.

He said: “We know the rule against gay people donating blood has nothing to do with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, and our protest is not against them, but we felt this was the best focal point to voice our opposition.

“This is a positive protest. We want to help save lives and I hope others will follow suit and stage demonstrations at other donation sessions.”

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