Northern Ireland

Gay blood legal battle now 'academic'

Bags of donated red blood cells hanging in a blood donation centre Image copyright SPL
Image caption The ban, which was put in place during the 1980s Aids crisis, was lifted in September

A gay man has failed in an attempt to have his legal challenge to the ban on homosexual blood donations examined by the UK's most senior judges.

It comes after former health minister Edwin Poots won his appeal against a ruling that he had acted irrationally or with apparent bias in maintaining the ban.

NI's lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in September.

The Supreme Court refused the case because the matter was now "academic".

In a newly-issued decision, the court said the application did not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance worthy of further consideration.

It marks the end of a four-year legal battle over blood donations from gay men in Northern Ireland.

'Christian beliefs'

Mr Poots, who was health minister from 2011 to 2014, was taken to court after he maintained the ban on the basis of ensuring public safety.

Findings were originally made against him in a judicial review brought by a gay man, who has been granted anonymity.

A High Court judge held that the Democratic Unionist Party MLA did not have the power to keep the lifetime ban.

Challenges to the verdict were continued by his DUP ministerial successors and the UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In March 2016, the Court of Appeal in Belfast decided there was no basis for concluding that Mr Poots' decision was predetermined by his Christian beliefs.

Judges concluded by a 2-1 majority that the maintenance of the ban was not disproportionate or contrary to EU law.

They further ruled that it was up to Stormont, rather than the UK health secretary, to decide when gay men can give blood.

The lifting of the ban, which was put in place during the 1980s Aids crisis, means men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be free to donate blood so long as they meet the other donor criteria.

The policy change brings Northern Ireland into line with England, Scotland and Wales.

More on this story