Poots challenge on gay blood ban ruling hit by delay

Edwin Poots has appealed against the ruling that his ban was irrational
Edwin Poots has appealed against the ruling that his ban was irrational

Former health minister Edwin Poots’ bid to overturn rulings that his ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland was irrational and “infected” by apparent bias has been hit by delay.

The Court of Appeal was due to hear challenges to judicial verdicts that Mr Poots also breached the ministerial code and appeared to have been influenced by his Christian beliefs in maintaining the lifetime prohibition.

But the case, which had been listed for a four-day hearing next week, may not now take place until after Easter.

The appeal has been put on hold while lawyers wait the outcome of similar proceedings in Luxembourg.

The European Court of Justice is yet to reach a decision on a challenge to France’s ban on gay men donating blood.

With senior judges in Belfast informed that judgment in that case may be another two months away, they listed Mr Poots appeal to be mentioned again at the end of March.

Last week the High Court made a second determination against the former minister.

Mr Justice Treacy held that his ban on gay blood donations was infected by apparent bias.

He identified a “very troubling lack of candour” and attempt by the DUP MLA to conceal the fact he had taken a decision to maintain the prohibition.

The judge also backed claims by lawyers for a homosexual man that Assemby comments showed Mr Poots stance was influenced by his Christian beliefs.

That verdict strengthened a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban is irrational.

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s Aids threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

It was replaced by new rules which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.

But Mr Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

In his verdict last week Mr Justice Treacy declared Mr Poots in breach of the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive.

Counsel for the former Minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by religious views.