A controversial lifelong ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland has finally been lifted.
Stormont Health Minister Michelle O’Neill’s decision came after a long campaign by gay rights activists and a series of court battles.
A similar ban was ended in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 and replaced with rules that allowed gay men to give blood 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man. Northern Ireland has now adopted the same deferral policy.
Mrs O’Neill said: “As Health Minister my first responsibility in this matter is patient safety.
“Surveillance data from England, Scotland and Wales and survey evidence from across Britain and the north of Ireland have provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral.
“My decision is based on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”
The lifetime ban had been retained in Northern Ireland by successive Democratic Unionist health ministers, who cited blood safety concerns.
A ban on donations by men who have had sex with men was introduced in the UK and many other countries in the 1980s in response to the emergence of AIDS.
The change will be implemented by the Blood Transfusion Service from Thursday.