Gay man drops legal challenge to blood donation ban

Decision follows decision by Minister for Health to end permanent prohibition

Tomás Heneghan: said he was cautiously optimistic about the new Government policy.  File photograph: Collins Courts

Tomás Heneghan: said he was cautiously optimistic about the new Government policy. File photograph: Collins Courts


The Minister for Health’s decision to end the permanent prohibition on blood donations by gay men has lead to a man withdrawing his High Court challenge to the ban.

Simon Harris revealed the decision to remove the ban last month, days after the reform was recommended in a report by the board of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS). The ban was introduced here in the 1980s when Aids became a major sexual health risk.

The lifting of the ban will allow men who have sex with men to donate blood a year after being sexually active or five years after they have been cleared of a sexually transmitted infection.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Tomás Heneghan (24), a student from Castlegar, Co Galway, told High Court Deputy Master Angela Denning his action was being withdrawn following the change of policy.

Michael Lynn SC, for Mr Heneghan, said the case could be struck out with no order and with liberty to re-enter.

Outside court, Mr Heneghan said he was cautiously optimistic about the policy.

His solicitor Gareth Noble added they were anxious the change be implemented in a timely banner and considered it another important development towards equal treatment for Ireland’s LGBT community.

Mr Heneghan brought his case after he was permanently deferred in May 2015 from giving blood here after he disclosed having had a sexual encounter with a man some months earlier. He had begun donating blood in 2010 shortly after he turned 18.

He said he had undergone various tests after having had sex, all of which proved negative, before attending at the IBTS clinic at D’Olier Street in Dublin, but was nonetheless informed he was permanently deferred.

He argued he considers blood donation his civic responsibility and the permanent deferral imposed on him was discriminatory, disproportionate and contrary to EU law.

He argued the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation unless such discrimination is reasonable and proportionate to a proper objective.

The IBTS’s “blanket policy” of permanent deferral was unreasonable and disproportionate and there must be an individual inquiry of each blood donor to ensure there is no discrimination against a person on grounds of sexual orientation, he argued.

Despite the fact all blood donations are screened for infection and even if a man had sex with another man on just one occasion and that male donor was screened and found to have no infection, the IBTS policy was to impose a permanent deferral, he said.

He secured leave last July from High Court to bring his judicial review proceedings against the IBTS, the Minister for Health and the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was a notice party to the proceedings.