Dear Mr. Poots,
As an LGBT person, I must say that I am appalled and offended by the manner in which you and your department have handled the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood in Northern Ireland. Your decision to maintain the ban would only make sense if there was a significantly higher risk to the general public by accepting blood donations from Men who have sex with Men (MSM). However, you and your department have yet to publish or release the information upon which you have based your decision, and I fear that we, the public, will be waiting for some time.
I am well aware of the prejudices that exist amongst certain members of the Democratic Unionist Party, and I can only surmise that, since England, Scotland and Wales have lifted the ban in favour of a 12 month deferral period, that your decision to maintain that ban lies within your prejudice towards the LGBT community. I would like to remind you, and I am sure you are aware, that in 2005 you made the distinction that those in the LGBT community were, and I quote, an 'abomination'. Whilst I have no issue with your freedom to religion as I am sure you have no issue with mine, I do take a stand when I believe that those who are elected to represent me and legislate for equality are allowing religious or personal prejudices interfere with Ministerial work. This is not what you were elected to do, Mr. Poots.
I would like to ask you and your Department to release the information you have based your decision on, Minister, and I would also ask that you reconsider your decision in light of the growing pressure from your Assembly colleagues, such as those on the Health Committee, who have blasted and criticised your decision. It is a decision which makes no sense given the lack of blood in Northern Ireland, when we have a sizeable number of the population currently excluded from donating blood. It makes no sense as Northern Ireland has to import blood and plasma from other regions of the UK, where the ban does not exist. Does this mean that while MSM are excluded from donating blood in Northern Ireland, the Health Minister is fine with importing blood from MSM from across the Irish Sea?
These are questions that need to be answered, Minister Poots, and I patiently await your reply.