It has been revealed that the Northern Ireland Department of Health has spent almost £40,000 of taxpayer money to defend a law banning blood donations from gay men.
The Belfast Telegraph reported that the department has spent a total of £39,000 so far, including charges for barristers and solicitors, and has stated that they will probably incur more charges for the ongoing judgement.
“The department has appealed the judgment in this legal case and any future costs will be in respect of the appeal. However, these costs are not yet known,” the department said.
The ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in the rest of Britain in 2011, and replaced with a law stating that gay men could donate blood if they have not had sexual contact with another man in a year.
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew slammed the expense as “disgraceful” at Stormont and urged current Health Minister Jim Wells to drop the action. “It is a similar amount of money to what was paid out in the legal challenge to gay couples adopting,” he said. “Combined, these sums are significant. Collectively, they show further evidence that, as Justice Treacy put it, this is beyond religious belief and into the realms of prejudice.”
Former Health Minister Edwin Poots maintained Northern Ireland’s ban as an apparent way to ensure public safety, despite the severe ban being removed in the rest of Britain.
However, earlier this month, a court ruled the ban as “infected by […] bias”.
This same judge backed claims that Poots’ Christian beliefs influenced his decision.
In October 2013, a study found that the gay blood ban was irrational.
Agnew continued, “This is clearly a personal agenda driven forward by a previous Health Minister. Given that the appeal is ongoing, it looks like it is set to continue with the current Health Minister. I think it is a disgrace that that a minister has used public money to follow what had been judged by the courts as a personal agenda.”
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