Friday, 3 January 2014

Ping Pong between Westminster and Stormont over decision on NI MSM Blood Ban

You will have seen me blog in the past how sick I am of Northern Ireland Assembly ministers using tax payers money to fight equality measures (especially LGBT equality) here in Northern Ireland. So you can imagine my shock to learn that the Westminster Department of Health has decided to launch its own appeal against the High Court ruling in Belfast that said that the UK minister should decide the policy in Northern Ireland as Edwin Poots is challenging the whole ruling.

While the Department of Health in Westminster is saying it will fund it's appeal from its own funds, yet more Northern Irish funds are going to be wasted as yet again Edwin Poots is launching another appeal against the courts ruling.

Are people in England happy that the Department of Health is spending money preventing their minister being handed a decision that his Northern Ireland counterpart has been unable to make under any measure of equality as defined in the Belfast Agreement?

Because that is probably part of the reason that Justice Tracey had passed the decision back into Jeremy Hunt's lap in the first place. The judge had ruled it "irrational" that Northern Ireland Mr Poots would retain the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations in Northern Ireland while accepting GB blood which had the 12 month deferral whenever there were shortages.

This means that MSM in Northern Ireland are clearly less equal when it comes to being able to donate than elsewhere in the UK. In fact I know of some from Northern Ireland who after a 12 month period of refraining from sex with other men are travelling to the UK to donate blood. So there is actually the possibility that Northern Ireland may be importing blood from men who've had sex with men greater than 12 months ago who reside here while denying them the right to donate here!

In November the Department of Health said, "“in England, we have made a different decision on the actual issue. In considering any health policy issue that affects all countries in the UK, we will focus on the implications for devolution." Part of the implications of devolution here in Northern Ireland was Section 75 which recognised various minorities, including the LGBT community. The implications of devolution failing to meet those requirements of equality is something that Jeremy Hunt needs to look at as well, although it seems that he has decided to appeal being given the decision to help enact part of the DHSSPS remit on equality when they themselves fail.

So now we have two health Departments playing ping pong over taking a decision which the LGBT community here in Northern Ireland see as an example of the institutionalised homophobia of the largest party. A party by the way that has Ministerial responsibility over the areas of blood donation, adoption and marriage, three major equality pushes that LGBT people in England, Wales and Scotland are taking for granted or see coming.

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