A Belfast High Court judge has ruled that the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in Northern Ireland is “irrational”, defeating Health Minister, Edwin Poots.
Justice Treacy also ruled that Poots was in breach of the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before Stormont.
Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that currently enforces a complete ban on MSMs donating blood; England, Wales and Scotland lifted the ban in November 2011, replacing it with new rules, which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.
Despite the ban being lifted in the rest of the UK, Poots maintained that the ban in Northern Ireland had been held in order to ensure public safety. Yet imported blood was not subject to the same standards.
“There is clearly a defect in reason here,” Justice Treacy said in court, adding that the lifetime ban was both controversial and cross-cutting, taking in equality issues.
“As such the Minister [..] had no authority to act without bringing them to the attention of the Executive Committee which he failed to do. In doing so the Minister breached the Ministerial Code and… had no legal authority to take a decision in breach of the Ministerial Code.”
Stephen Glenn of the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland said:
“The decision today from Mr Justice Treacy shows that the decision made by the Health Minister was not based on science provided by The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) or any other agency but on personally held beliefs. Such a basis for policy making has made Northern Ireland isolated in the UK and appear backward.”
Meanwhile, Minister Poots still intends to bring a case on banning gay adoption in Northern Ireland to the UK Supreme Court in London.