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Rainbow Welcome for Poots (28November 2013 )
Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots visit to a Londonderry/Derry hospital was briefly eclipsed by the sight of a rainbow flag, held in protest over his anti-gay views. Shá Gillespie, a local LGBT activist and former chairperson of Foyle Pride, was pictured behind Mr Poots holding a rainbow pride flag at Altnagelvin Hospital on Tuesday.
She told GCN: “I decided to protest because I’m sick of this man dictating to me how I should live my life. A woman is not allowed the right to choose what happens to her own body, there lifetime ban on gay blood donation and he is against gay adoption!” "The man is a bigot and everyone knows that, it’s time for him to go!” A source at the event said that Poots was unfazed by the demonstration and dismissed the flag as "stupid".
Gay Blood Ban to Stay for Now (15 November 2013)
Health Minister Edwin Poots and John Larkin, the Attorney General, have won the latest round of their battle to withhold the legal thinking behind the ban on gay men donating blood. The Information Rights Tribunal found that Mr Larkin and Mr Poots were entitled to keep the information secret. "It seems unfair that a public authority engaged in litigation should have a unilateral duty to disclose its legal advice," NJ Warren, the judge who heard the case, said in a seven-page finding. The finding can be appealed to a second-tier tribunal, and then to the Appeals Court. The case was taken by Matthew McDermott, Policy Manager of the Rainbow Project, is considering all his options. Mr McDermott had launched the request under the Freedom of Information Act and, in March, the Information Commissioner found in his favour. Mr McDermott said: "It is hugely disappointing that the minister has used yet more public funds opposing an issue around equality, this time to keep the legal advice from the Attorney General on the blood ban secret. The decision of the High Court on the blood ban not only found that the minister acted irrationally, but also that he acted without lawful authority and in breach of the Ministerial Code. There is also a political interest in seeing the advice as is evident from calls of various Assembly Members for the advice to be released. If the Assembly is to hold the minister to account, part of that process will be to know upon what legal advice the minister made his decision." The Health Department spokesperson said that the blood ban would remain. "There is no ban on blood donation by gay men per se. The lifetime ban is based on sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation."
Outburst Queer Arts Festival Opens (15 November 2013)
Outburst Queer Arts Festival is Northern Ireland's annual celebration of all that is bold and good in the world of LGBT creativity. Now in its 6th year, Outburst presents in various venues across Belfast an impressive and vibrant array of queer and queer-influenced theatre, music, comedy, visual arts, film, spoken word, writing, performance and workshops. Outburst is defiantly and gloriously 'other', attracting audiences gay, straight and in-between with a sometimes challenging, always invigorating programme. For the full festival programme: www.outburstarts.com
No Appeal for Poots Unlawful Adopt Rules, Judge Rules (22 October 2013)
Stormont Health Minister, Edwin Poots cannot appeal the high court's decision to allow gay and unmarried couples in Northern Ireland to adopt. The Supreme Court said that Poots argument for appeal did not meet the criteria. In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that legislation that prevents civil partners adopting was unlawful - but Edwin Poots appealed that decision. The Supreme Court said there were no grounds for an appeal and dismissed it. Mr Poots tried to challenge an appeal court's decision that paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland. A spokesman for the UK's top court said: "The Supreme Court of the UK has refused permission to appeal the Court of Appeal's decision in this matter." At present a single gay or lesbian person can adopt in Northern Ireland but a couple in a civil partnership cannot. Mr Poots said: "It is with disappointment that I note that the request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been refused. "I am currently carefully considering the implications for the Adoption and Children Bill, which is currently being drafted and which I intend to introduce in the assembly next year." 'Unjustifiably discriminatory'
A challenge to the legislation was mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was backed by an unidentified lesbian woman who wants to enter into a civil partnership and be able to adopt her partner's biological child. Unmarried couples in Great Britain can apply jointly to be considered for adoption irrespective of sexual orientation. But anyone unmarried in Northern Ireland is only eligible for consideration as an individual. Those in civil partnerships cannot apply individually or as a couple. The commission challenged the law on the grounds that certain provisions were unjustifiably discriminatory to those in homosexual relationships, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled in the commission's favour and against Mr Poots' department in June. The department then applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law. The Supreme Court spokesman added: "The Supreme Court issued an order on 22 October 2013 stating that the application did not satisfy the criteria of raising an arguable point of law of general public importance."
The refusal of the Supreme Court in London to grant the further appeal on adoption law was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. 'Successive legal failures' Chief Commissioner, Professor Michael O'Flaherty said: "The commission brought this case to ensure that the best interests of children in Northern Ireland would be protected. "Unmarried couples, those in same sex relationships and civil partnerships are eligible to be considered to be adoptive parents. "All of the judgements and today's rejection by the Supreme Court to hear a further appeal confirmed that the law in Northern Ireland was out of step with the United Kingdom's human rights obligations." Alliance Party MLA Kieran McCarthy said: "Edwin Poots' position as health minister has been seriously undermined by successive legal failures over adoption by civil partners and the ban on gay men donating blood. "He has continued to waste public money on his own personal campaigns despite several failures in the courts. "The minister must do what is right and urgently allow civil partners the opportunity to apply to adopt. He must accept this decision and cease any further legal action. "There are too many children in our care system for us to be deciding who has the right to apply to adopt a child. It should be about whether a couple can provide a loving and safe home for a child." The Rainbow Project said they hoped the ruling would bring an end to the "discriminatory practice" in Northern Ireland.
Robinson: Gay Blood Ban Not Over (15 October 2013)
Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland has said the Belfast High Court decision to rule against the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men could be appealed. His Health Minister Edwin Poots has led the campaign to keep the ban in Northern Ireland, had signalled that he would respect the High Court judgment. It declared that he did not have the power to keep an “irrational” lifetime ban, and had also breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive. Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland the DUP leader said: “The judgment, if it was to be carried into our normal practices in Northern Ireland would have seen every minister at the Executive table having been in breach of the ministerial code. It’s a very wide interpretation of the ministerial code and one which I think the Executive is going to have to look at." Robinson has already dismissed calls to discipline Mr Poots over the alleged breach of the ministerial code, adding that the DUP minister had “acted in good faith”.
Gay Blood Ban 'Irrational', Judge Rules (11 October 2013)
A judge has ruled that Edwin Poots (Health Minister) did not have the power to keep an "irrational" lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland. The High Court judge also found that Poots had breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive. The Department of Health said Mr Poots would "read and consider" the verdict. The complete ban, put in place during the 1980s, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011. It was replaced by new rules that allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago. Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety. But a gay man granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability launched a judicial review challenge to Poots' position on blood donation. The judge heard claims that the minister had displayed apparent bias that went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice. In response to the judgement, a spokesperson for UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We will consider the potential implications of this judgement on UK blood policy." Sinn Féin assembly member Maeve McLaughlin, who is currently the chair of Stormont's health committee, said: "The decision raises in many people's minds serious questions as to whether Edwin Poots has the ability to carry out his duties as health minister for all."
Kremlin Rape Trial Starts at Belfast Crown Court (26 September 2013)
A man has gone on trial for the rape of a woman at the Kremlin - Belfast gay club. Belfast Crown Court heard that Francis Eliason did not deny having sex with the woman in the Bar three years ago, but claimed that it was consensual. Prosecution lawyer Peter Magill told the jury that the woman and a male friend had gone to the Donegall Street nightclub, which caters to the gay community, on September 10, 2010, where she met Eliason and they danced. Later Eliason allegedly took her by the wrist and led her down a corridor and into a small cloakroom where he allegedly raped and sexually abused her twice. Mr Magill said the woman would tell the court that "she did not want this to happen, but that in essence, she froze". On returning to the main club area staff were alerted and police called. Eliason, from the Antrim Road in North Belfast, denies a total of four charges, including two counts of rape.
Kit Harington tells Vanity Fair about his nights at the Kremlin (24 September 2013)
Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington when asked by Vanity Fair about recent photos that hit the web of castmate Peter Dinklage hula-hooping in a gay bar. “That sounds like Peter and Lena [Headley]!” Harington laughed. “That doesn’t happen often, but there’s a great gay club in Belfast that we go to sometimes called the Kremlin, which is a fun night out.” Asked what kind of trouble the Game of Thrones cast gets into, Harington demurred. “I can never usually remember,” he said, “but it’s always fun.” The English actor who rose to fame playing the role of Jon Snow, one of the main protagonists in the series Game of Thrones; also starred as Albert in the original West End production of War Horse.
Gay Adoption heads to Supreme Court (14 September 2013)
Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots is set to take his legal fight against the extension of adoption rights to Northern Ireland's gay and unmarried couples to the UK's highest court. We reported earlier this year senior judges in Belfast dismissed a bid to overturn a landmark ruling that the prohibition is unlawful. But Attorney General John Larkin QC, appearing for the Minister, on Friday began a process expected to see the challenge come under consideration by the Supreme Court in London. Mr Larkin asked the Court of Appeal to certify a number of questions for further determination. He told the court: "We would suggest there are few,or indeed any, cases which present such a range of important issues." His request was declined despite acknowledgment of the significance being placed on the case. Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Girvan and Coghlin, said: "We consider we should leave this to the Supreme Court to make a decision." Despite refusing to certify any questions, the Department's legal team can now petition the higher court directly to hear its case.
Rainbow Boss Slammed by Employment Tribunal (25 August 2013)
The owner of Rainbow on Botanic Avenue (Bryan West) has been slammed by an Employment Tribunal over what they labelled his humiliating and degrading treatment of staff at the gay themed restaurant he launched in the city centre last year. Mr West has been ordered to pay compensation to two unnamed employees. The tribunal panel said: “It was clear during the hearing that the claimant remained extremely and visibly upset, embarrassed and humiliated by the treatment which he had suffered, often in front of colleagues and customers of the restaurant. The claimant felt very degraded to have been continually denigrated as ‘stupid’. The tribunal was particularly shocked and appalled that the claimant had been subjected to a sexual assault in the workplace.” Rainbow has now closed.
No Consultation on Gay Strategy Condemned (10th August 2013)
The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFDFM) has been criticised by Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt for its failure to pay for a public consultation process on a sexual orientation strategy, despite spending more than £250,000 on consultations. The OFDFM has made no progress on consulting on the strategy, which aims to identify and address issues affecting the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.Mr Nesbitt said the failure to publicly consult on the sexual orientation strategy was "inexplicable". John O'Doherty from the Rainbow Project, which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland, told the Belfast Telegraph "OFMDFM had not provided any finance to the sector since the original funding was provided by direct rule ministers. We were promised the sexual orientation strategy by the end of 2012 and it didn't happen. We've now been promised one by the end of 2013 and we can only hope that OFMDFM plan to honour that commitment."
Belfast City Hall Celebrates Gay Pride with Light Show (28th June 2013)
On Saturday 6th July 2013 the City Hall in Belfast will have a special light show to celebrate Gay Pride. Belfast's City Hall will be lit up in the full rainbow spectrum and we have a special preview photographic of what it will look like on the evening show. The historic building's lighting system recently received an upgrade which, until now, has only been used on two projects in the USA. The new LED floodlighting on the exterior of the city`s civic headquarters is also the biggest single building project of its kind in Europe – and will help reduce both the Hall's energy bill and CO2 emissions. The City Hall is one of seven European buildings chosen to take part in the EU`s ILLUMINATE pilot project, which will see new solid state lighting systems installed on other landmarks such as the world famous waterfront in Genoa, Italy. It allows the building to be lit for special occasions, other days on which the city hall will be 'colour-washed' include St Patrick's Day, Orangefest, Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year and Polish Independence Day. A Council spokeperson said “City Hall is not only the civic centrepiece of Belfast, but it is also one of the most iconic and instantly recognised buildings in the whole of Europe, for it to be selected as the first major structure in Europe to use this revolutionary technology is a major coup for our city. The £330,000 installation costs were 60 per cent funded by the EU`s Information and Communication Technologies Policy Support Programme. For more information on Belfast City Hall visit: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/cityhall.
Poots' Gay Adoption Challenge Dismissed by Court of Appeal (27th June 2013)
A legal challenge over gay adoption by Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Belfast today. Born again christian Poots was seeking to overturn an earlier decision by Belfast High Court which found the current adoption ban on gay and lesbian couples was unlawful. Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Girvan described the ban as irrational and unjustified. He said: "A bright line rule which excluded all but married couples from consideration as adopters had no rational basis when the true focus should be on the interests of the child. "The creation of an irrebuttable presumption against any couple other than a married couple was irrational. The difference in treatment could not be justified." The judge also said the ban only served to narrow the pool of potential adopters and was not in the best interests of the child. "The scrutiny and assessment of suitability ensures that only persons capable of providing a loving, safe and secure adoptive home will ultimately be considered," he added. Under current legislation single men and women regardless of their sexual orientation can apply to adopt in Northern Ireland but unmarried heterosexual couples, same sex couples, and those in civil partnerships were not eligible to be considered for adoption. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which took the case backed by an unidentified lesbian woman said it was delighted the High Court ruling against discrimination had been upheld. Chief commissioner professor Michael O'Flaherty said: "Through this case the commission has protected basic human rights and the best interests of the child." The move brings Northern Ireland law into line with the rest of the UK.
Local Council Appoints First Gay Mayor (14th June 2013)
North Down Borough Council has appointed its first openly gay mayor. Alliance councillor Andrew Muir was elected to the position on Thursday 13th June. Mr Muir has served as an Alliance Party Councillor on the council since 2010. He is also Chairperson of the Alliance Party and is a keen amateur athlete, competing for North Down Athletics Club and was made a honorary member of North Down Cycling Club in 2012. A graduate of the University of Ulster, Muir holds a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. For his term in office, he has chosen the theme 'Working as one', to provide "courageous civic leadership for everyone". Speaking to Ulster Television (UTV), the councillor added: "My sexuality hasn't been an issue for me nor for my electorate nor my constituents since I became a councillor in 2010. And it won't be a defining issue for me as mayor because the challenge as mayor is to reach out and represent everyone across our society - people of different faiths, backgrounds. I think it's a proud moment for me - but there's lots of challenges and opportunities ahead."
Thug Jailed for St. Valentine's Day Homophobic Attack in Belfast Bar (11th June 2013)
A violent thug who attacked a gay man in the toilets of the Mynt gay bar after his friend called him a "queer b******" has been jailed for two years. Kenneth McIntyre was ordered to serve a year in custody at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that as a dangerous offender who posed a risk of serious harm to the public, he was ordering him to spend a further three years on supervised licence in an effort to protect the public.
Earlier he had heard that on St. Valentine's Day 2009, McIntyre and another man not before the court had been drinking in Mynt nightclub in the city centre when they went to the toilet. Prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer said their victim Mark Saunders had been in the cubicle when he overheard them talking about gay men and when he challenged them about it, McIntyre's friend "are you another gay b******" before the pair came at him. Mr Saunders, who is himself homosexual, cannot remember what happened the lawyer told the court but as a result of either a blow or a push, two teeth were knocked out, two teeth were fractured and he fell to the ground, cutting the back of his head with the gash needing seven staples.
Having identified the two males to doorstaff, bouncers told McIntyre and his friend to stay, but having tried unsuccessfully to run out the back door, they bolted for the front door but ran into police. Mr Steer said it was not possible to ascertain exactly how Mr Saunders came to be felled or which man had made homophobic comments while he was in the cubicle but he revealed that McIntyre had numerous entries on his criminal record including offences of violence leading the probation service to assess him as dangerous. McIntyre from Ballyclare in County Antrim, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Saunders. Defence lawyer Dennis Boyd said McIntyre accepted pushing the victim but that there was "no evidence to satisfy the court that he had been involved any more extensively than that". In jailing McIntyre, Judge Kerr revealed he had only been released from prison for a previous violent offence just five days before the incident, commenting that he had "an appalling record".