‘We just want to have our voices heard’

Sha Gillespie holding the gay rights flag behind Health Minister Edwin Poots.
Sha Gillespie holding the gay rights flag behind Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Protestors who carried a gay rights flag into a public meeting with Health Minister Edwin Poots have said they carried out their peaceful demonstration because they saw “no other way of trying to get the Minister to listen to their concerns”.

Around 10 protestors representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community interrupted the Public Facing Accountability meeting at Altnagelvin on Wednesday night.

One protestor, Sha Gillespie, held the rainbow flag behind the Minister who, the protestors allege, refused to converse with them except to tell them their flag and their actions “were stupid”.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’. Ms Gillespie said: “I decided to protest because I’m sick of this man dictating to me how I should live my life.”

She said the protestors particularly had issues with Mr Poots stance on the donation of blood from homosexuals and his objection to same sex couples adopting children.

Photographs of the protest circulated widely on social media yesterday.

The woman behind the lens was Sha’s fellow protestor Mary Baird, who said she was “shocked” at the attitude of the Minister to the protestors.

“He could have at least interacted with us but he would not speak to us or listen to our concerns,” Ms Baird said. “The only thing he said to us what that our flag was stupid and we had no right to be there.”

“We have tried to engage with the Minister on a number of occasions in the past - and will continue to do so.

“We felt we had no choice but to try and force him to discuss these issues with us - but he steadfastly refused.”

A DHSSPS spokesperson said: “The Minister has met with representatives from the Rainbow Project. This was followed by a further meeting with officials from the Department, Public Health Agency and representatives from the Rainbow Project. The issue of blood donation and the lifetime ban was on the agenda at both of these meetings.”

Regarding the issue of adoption, the spokesperson continued: “Following the Court of Appeal ruling on 27 June, the Department issued an information note to all adoption agencies instructing them to accept applications from unmarried couples (including same-sex couples) and those in a civil partnership arrangement. The final decision about whether an adoption order should be made will be a matter for the court.

“The Minister has neither received nor declined any request to engage with any LGBT groups regarding the eligibility to apply to adopt criteria.”