No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
Thus states clause 29 of the Magna Carta one of three clauses that are still in effect in UK law without amendment or repel.The reason while I am starting this at the top of this blog post will be revealed at the end.
However, today Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Northern Ireland's most senior judge said that he expressed concern that comments made by the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the DUP's Edwin Poots, were detrimental to the rule of law. Those comments were made after Mr Justice Traecy had ruled that the minister's continuation of the lifetime ban on men who'd had sex with other men donating blood was "irrational".
What the minister said in the chamber of the Assembly was:
"The question is this: will I appeal it? I am very reluctant to appeal it. Number one, it gives the larger parties in the Executive considerably more power. Number two, it refers a lot of governance back to the national Parliament and, as a unionist, should I be that concerned about that? Number three, do I believe that I would get fairness in the Court of Appeal or would there be a circling of the wagons? I am concerned that that may not be the case."
[Official Report, Vol 89, No 2, p55, col 2]
Earlier today Sir Declan Morgan said that he had written about his concerns to the OFMDFM that the Minister was doubting the impartiality of the courts and was also damaging to public confidence in the administration of justice. He added that he has yet to receive a reply to his letter of 18th January which he also release to the public. The text of that letter is below:
RULE OF LAWThis is quite a strongly worded letter to come from the most senior judge to the highest political office in the land. The fact that is has yet to receive a response shows a great lack of respect from either the First Minister or Deputy First Minister to his concerns. However, as the right to due process is outlined by that clause 29 of the Magna Carta which I quoted at the top of this blog post you can see why Sir Declan Morgan finishing with the ultimate damage to the strength of our democracy, Magna Carta is the foundations of it and due process is one of the keystones that survive.
Regrettfully, I am writing to you about the comments made by a Minister which I believe are detrimental to the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
In November the Assembly debated the issue of blood donations by gay men who had been sexually active [sic]*. A challenge to a decision of the Minister, Edwin Poots, that there should be a lifetime ban on blood donations by such men had succeeded in a related judicial review in the High Court some weeks earlier. During the course of the debate the Minister strongly inferred that he would not get a fair hearing should he appeal to the Court of Appeal. While I have no difficulty with judicial decision being the subject of informed comments and criticism, I think it entirely unacceptable for a Minister to suggest that the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland is biased or unfair, Such a statement is not only untrue, it is inevitably damaging to public confidence in the administration of justice and ultimately to the strength of our democracy.
The only circling of the wagons would once again appear to come from the DUP (as well as many in the UUP) stopping due fairness and justice on matters of LGBT equality which even if won in a court of law are challenged by our own taxes, at our own expense by the Ministers who are supposed to uphold Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998).
Paul Girvan, Mr Poots DUP colleague, who is chair of the Justice Committee, was present when Mr Justice made his comments and he laid down the law to the judicary that they "don't get too precious about their status".
So another teamster busy circling the wagons from a party with the word Democratic in its title with no idea of the history of democracy, its likes historically to the judiciary and fair process and how this is laid down before anything else that politicians have done afterwards.
Does anyone else think that Mr Girvan and especially Mr Poots with his constant appealing of High Court rulings that go in favour of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland are getting too precious about their position? Are LGBT people not freemen and freewomen who should not be denied or deferred either Justice or Right?
* Sadly Sir Declan Morgan has fallen into the often repeated trap that ignorance about the blood ban leads to. It is not merely gay men who are banned from donating in Northern Ireland, but any bi-sexual man who has had sex with another man, or indeed any man who is straight but once gave a blow job to a mate in his youth. As the ban in on any man who has ever had sex either anally or orally with another whether with or without a condom. It is my one criticism about his wording of his letter.