Edwin Poots has said that yesterday’s court judgement in his favour has “gone a considerable way” to restoring his faith in a judicial system which he once said he believed could not give him a fair hearing.
The former health minister last night said he had always been confident of his case and that every lawyer he spoke to about it had believed that the initial decision was “flawed”.
He told the News Letter: “On a personal level, I’ve taken an awful lot of criticism on that decision on the basis that one judge said it was irrational; three have now said it was not; and that one judge said the decision was infected by bias – three judges clearly don’t believe that to be the case.
“The truth is, I always took that decision on the basis of public safety.”
In 2013, speaking under the legal privilege of the Assembly chamber in the wake of the initial ruling against him, Mr Poots savaged the judiciary, saying that he did not believe he would receive a fair hearing if he brought the case to the Court of Appeal because judges might circle their wagons.
When asked last night if yesterday’s judgement showed that he had been wrong on that issue, Mr Poots said: “It has gone a long way to restoring my confidence in the judicial system....this has gone a considerable way to restoring my faith in judges.”
The current DUP Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, welcomed the judgement which he said “firmly established” that his department had the authority to take decisions about blood donation.
He said: “Ensuring the safety of blood donations that people in Northern Ireland receive has always been my priority and that of my predecessors. In 2011, Great Britain was the first part of Europe to remove the lifetime ban specifically for men who have sex with other men (MSM). I believe that caution to consider the evidence was correct and the judgement affirms that view.”
Mr Hamilton, who will only be in post for another few weeks, said that he would drop the current ban on sexually active gay men donating blood “if evidence confirms that the current system in Great Britain has not presented any significant additional risk to the safety of blood donations”.
The Equality Commission said that it “looks forward to a decision on this matter now by the minister and his department in accordance with the medical evidence”.
LGBT campaign ‘welcomes’ verdict after gaffe
Northern Ireland’s largest LGBT group, The Rainbow Project, mistakenly welcomed yesterday’s court ruling.
In a press release which the body withdrew 20 minutes after it had been issued to newsdesks, Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said that the group was “enormously happy that the Court of Appeal has upheld the [High Court] judgment”.
However, in a statement issued a few minutes after the erroneous press release had been withdrawn, The Rainbow Project “expressed disappointment” with the decision. Mr O’Doherty said that “today’s judgment follows four years of legal proceedings and it is disappointing that their lordships have failed to recognise that there is no reasonable, rational or medical reason to maintain this lifetime ban”.