Following Mr Justice Treacy’s ruling last week that Health Minister Edwin Poots breached Ministerial code by upholding the ban on gay men giving blood, Mr Kieran McCarthy posed an urgent oral question to Mr Poots asking him for an update on the outcome of the judicial review.
Mr Poots accepted that the issue has now been referred to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, as it is a reserved matter by virtue of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. He disputed inaccurate reports that the judge had called his decision to uphold the ban irrational but rather that he ruled that the decision to maintain the ban yet still allow the import of blood from other parts of the UK (which may contain donations from men who sleep with other men) is irrational.
The Minister deflected accusations that his decision to uphold the ban was based on prejudice, saying that “this is not an issue of religiosity or moral views; it is one of public safety”. He also listed the current democracies that have a similar ban in relation to blood donations including Germany, France and the Netherlands among others.
When questioned about Justice Treacy’s view that he had breached the Ministerial code, Mr Poots said that “if I did it, I did it unwittingly” and followed up with examples of other Ministers unknowingly breaching the code.