Controversial NI gay men blood donation ban lifted

Credit: PA

Gay men in Northern Ireland will now be able to donate blood for the first time.

The step comes after a controversial lifetime ban on the practice was lifted in Stormont following years of campaigns by gay rights activists and court battles.

A similar ban was ended in the England, Scotland and Wales in 2011.

That prohibition was replaced with rules allowing gay men to give blood 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man. Northern Ireland has now adopted the same policy.

Stormont has overturned the lifetime ban Credit: PA

For years the ban was maintained by successive Democratic Unionist health ministers, who cited blood safety concerns.

Despite changes across the rest of the UK in 2011, the absolute ban remained in Northern Ireland.

In the most recent court judgement on the gay blood ban, the Court of Appeal decided the decision on whether to lift the ban rested with Stormont, not the UK Health Secretary.

The most high profile remaining dispute in Northern Ireland is over the ongoing bar on same-sex marriage.