SDLP slams Edwin Poots for 'repellent' backing of gay blood donor ban in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s health minister has been asked to produce evidence after continuing to back a ‘bigoted’ ban on gay blood donors.
Speaking on the BBC Sunday Politics NI program yesterday (17 June), Edwin Poots said he received two new pieces of research that strengthened his position and said he wants to extend the ban to others who also engage in ‘high risk’ sexual behavior.
However, the Social Democrat and Labour Party (SDLP) branded Poots’ comments as ‘repellent’ and ‘unscientific’, demanding he show evidence to support his claims.
‘The health minister’s comments on the Politics Show, while not surprising, remain shocking,’ said SDLP health spokesman Cornnall McDevitt.
The South Belfast SDLP assembly member added: ‘Once again, these views risk the perception that the minister is confusing personal prejudice with prudent policy.’
An outright ban was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales last year, but gay and bisexual men are still barred from giving blood for a year.
McDevitt said: ‘The minister is causing undue and unnecessary alarm, and yet contradicting himself, when just before Christmas he was content to ship in units of blood to Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK, where there is no longer a ban.’
He added: ‘The minister’s comments perpetuate a tired mythology of cultural promiscuity in the gay community which troubles me as an advocate of a more accepting, shared society.
‘My party will be calling on the minister to bring forward the totality of his alleged evidence, to allow proper scrutiny of it in the round and answer for the bigotry inherent in his comments.’
Gay rights campaigners were urging for the ban to be lifted globally on World Blood Donor Day on Thursday (14 June).