Gay men in Northern Ireland permitted to give blood

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The Rainbow Project’s John O’Doherty with Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s health minister. Credit: Michael Cooper/PA

A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland is to be lifted in September.

The ban was originally implemented on the grounds of health risks but evidence from around the UK showed they had decreased with the introduction of the one-year deferral policy.

Since 2011, gay men in England, Scotland and Wales have been able to give blood 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man.

Northern Ireland’s health minister, Michelle O’Neill, made the decision regarding the blood ban and was not opposed by her DUP colleagues in the Stormont Executive.

“I think it is a good news story for the LGBT community,” she said.

“It is a decision I have taken based on medical evidence that was put before me, which clearly shows that this was the right decision to take.”

The announcement came just eight days after Mrs O’Neill assumed the health ministry.

Previously, successive Democratic Unionist health ministers had cited safety concerns for maintaining the lifetime ban.

John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, a body promoting the health and well-being of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, described the announcement as “absolutely fantastic”.

The blood ban in Northern Ireland was one of a number of LGBT issues that have recently been discussed at Stormont.

The most prominent remaining dispute is over the continuing ban on same-sex marriage in the country.

Discussions about lifting the ban in the Republic have been scheduled, with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service board set to meet with the country’s health minister, Simon Harris, in the coming months.

It had brought the issue to light in April and, as was reported in the Irish Examiner, it is understood that a 12-month deferral will be recommended.

Upon hearing the news of the announcement, Mr Harris said he had noted the developments in the North.

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