Northern Ireland could finally see the ban on gay men donating blood lifted.
As you might know, in England, Scotland and Wales, you can donate blood as a gay man if you have not had sex for 12 months. Even this policy is fairly draconian, but in Northern Ireland, gay men cannot donate blood at all.
Since 2011, the various Health ministers have been from the anti-LGBT Democratic Unionist Party, who have repeatedly refused to shift this policy. Former DUP minister Edwin Poots even went so far as to fight a costly legal battle to keep the ban in place, despite the Health department admitting there was “no evidence” for it.
His successor, Jim Wells, surprised no one by keeping it in place as he had described LGBT people as “repugnant”. There might yet be hope, though, as following the Stormont elections the positiion has been handed to Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein have previously pledged to lift the ban on gay men donating blood. When speaking to the BBC, the new minister sadly made no direct promise: “Let me talk about all those issues within the department and with my executive colleagues.”
Gavin Boyd of The Rainbow Project said: “‘We congratulate Minister O’Neill on her appointment and hope the continue our positive engagements with her in the coming mandate however, we must also call on her to immediately remove the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The Court of Appeal has made it clear that this policy decision lies with the Minister for Health and therefore there is no need for consultation with other executive ministers. This illogical policy could and should be removed immediately.”