Shooting in Newry —those responsible must face full force of law


This morning a shooting in Newry is brought to our attention by the BBC.

As with many other people, we in the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats abhor the violence that is still being visited on the people of Northern Ireland.

I hope that the man who was attacked in the Parkhead Crescent area of the city and suffered injury to his stomach and knee will make a full recovery.

The staff of Northern Ireland’s health service so often have to look after those affected by such mindless violence. I know we all will thank them.

I call on anyone with any information about this and all other attacks to contact the PSNI as soon as possible and help them to rid the streets of the criminal or criminals behind this cruel attack. Those who persist in such violence must feel the full force of the law on them.

Supreme Court dismisses Edwin Poots appeal on unmarried and same-sex couples adopting


Today the Supreme Court of the UK has ruled that the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had not meet the court’s criteria for an appeal and dismissed their case on the matter of same-sex and unmarried couples adopting.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said:

“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.”

In June  the Court of Appeal backed up the previous High Court ruling that the ban on unmarried and same-sex couple adopting was unlawful. But not satisfied Health Minister Edwin Poots said he would take his appeal to the next stage. Today that next stage the Supreme Court has spoken and just over a year after the first court decision he is left without any further ground to appeal.

Speaking on the decision LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Coordinator Stephen Glenn said:

“Thankfully the Supreme Court have come to a rapid dismissal of this latest appeal which was surely only launched in the interests of primarily hindering LGBT equality and not in the interest of children who need families.

“However, it has taken over a year of legal proceedings for Edwin Poots to finally run out of legal avenues to pursue at a great cost to the public purse. This should be a lesson to him to stop spending public money on continuous appeals to attempt to block LGBT equality moving forward in Northern Ireland. Though these is now also an appeal pending on the blood ban and there is still a differential viewpoint on same-sex marriage to the rest of the UK.

“We await and see how much longer it will be before the Health Minister makes a move to actually resolve this issue but we trust that the suitable provision will be made in the Adoption and Children Bill to be introduced next year.”

High Court ruling on blood ban welcome


Today in the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice Traecy ruled that Health Minister Edwin Poots continuation of the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) was “irrational”. He also ruled that the Minster had broken the ministerial code in coming to his conclusion.

Speaking about the decision LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Ireland co-ordinator Stephen Glenn said:

“The Liberal Democrats across the UK have long been campaigning for a science based approach to blood donation, not one based on fear at the initial outbreak of HIV in the 80s. The party is also campaigning for a policy that is based on sexual practice rather that tarring of an entire sexual orientation even in light of the 12 month referral period.


“This decision should pave the way for bi-sexual men who are in long term heterosexual relationships, men who experimented with men in their distant pass or long term celibate gay men to be able to give blood based on the safe practices of their current lifestyle.


“The decision today from Mr Justice Traecy shows that the decision made by the Health Minister was not based on science provided by The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) or any other agency but on personally held beliefs. Such a basis for policy making has made Northern Ireland isolated in the UK and appear backward.


“I hope that Mr Poots will accept this decision from the court and take the approach he followed when the High Court ruled against him on the case of same-sex couples adopting. We cannot afford for the Minister to take another appeal to the Supreme Court because he has not got a legal ruling he agrees with.”

Concern about the future of Causeway Hospital


Causeway Hospital - - 1154840
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats have received expressions of concern from a number of stakeholder parties at uncertainties over the future of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, currently under review by the Department of Health at Stormont as an aspect of the Transforming Your Care programme.

The difficulties at Causeway are acknowledged by all, and constitute a major impediment to the delivery of healthcare to North Antrim and the North Coast. These stem principally from an inability to recruit and retain senior Medical and Surgical professionals at Causeway, especially in the areas of Emergency Medicine and Maternity.

Causeway Hospital currently operates within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and as such, it shares many services, including the services of many Consultants and an entire spectrum of less-visible activities such as nursing, supply, Biomedical Science services, etc with other institutions of the Northern HSC Trust including Antrim Hospital. One possible “solution” mooted for the senior staffing difficulties is the transfer of Causeway from the Northern HSC Trust to the Western HSC Trust. The principal motivation being suggested for such change is the potential for new multi-centre working arrangements between Causeway and Altnagelvin Hospitals.

We are seriously concerned that such a proposal does not adequately acknowledge the existing multicentre arrangements from which Causeway benefits in the Northern Trust. Many of these arrangements have been put in place at considerable cost in recent years following the merger of the former United Hospitals, Homefirst and Causeway Trusts.

It should be pointed out also that within the current fourfive-Trust [thanks @Alanlaw] structure in Northern Ireland, community and acute services reside within the same Trusts. Thus, any transfer of Causeway would have to be accompanied by a transfer of community medical, mental health and social care provision in North Antrim and on the North Coast. We suggest that this depth of change to healthcare in the Causeway area is an unnecessarily disruptive answer to the difficulties at hand.

Again, we do not seek to deny the seriousness of the shortfalls at Causeway, or the difficulties faced by the Department of Health in trying to put them right. We acknowledge that provision here has been overly territorial and insufficiently collaborative as many within healthcare in Northern Ireland will admit. However, that surely points to a possible alternative pathway — The further development of Causeway Hospital need not be a zero-sum process. — Even at a time of comparative scarcity in the NHS, we feel that there is potential within both Trusts for the Department to find, even perhaps to pioneer, better networking arrangements which enable Causeway’s existing strengths and relationships to continue as new capabilities are created for the benefit of all in North Antrim and on the North Coast.

New Standards of Care for People Living with HIV must apply in Northern Ireland as much as England – Michael Carchrie Campbell, HIV Blogger


With the news that the British HIV Association has published its new Standards of Care for People Living with HIV 2013, which set out to secure high quality care for people with HIV in the UK, at a time when patient numbers are rising and the NHS changes the way HIV treatment and prevention services will be commissioned and provided.

I am hoping that this will assist all interested in our care here in Northern Ireland to work for improvement of the service. I notice that The Rainbow Project – I hope that it is TRP in Northern Ireland – replied to the consultation that went towards the final document, I trust that Positive Life will work in the future with BHIVA to ensure that the thoughts of its clients and support workers are shown to the rest of the UK.

I have not seen any actual reference to Northern Ireland in the document, there is plenty about England, and some references to Scotland – but the document says the

set of quality standards [are] for the care of people with HIV in the UK.

All too often organisations in England say ‘national’ and mean England and refer to the UK and also mean England – or at best Great Britain. Even if the Standards of Care are not specifically tied into local commissioning and local health plans I am sure that they can be acknowledged and worked towards nonetheless.

I hope that the local Department of Health, the Health Committee up at the Northern Ireland Assembly and especially the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA will take time to read the document. It is available from BHIVA or by clicking on the document’s cover page to the right.

People diagnosed late have a tenfold increased risk of death in the first year after they are diagnosed when compared to those diagnosed with earlier stages of infection according to the Health Protection Agency. Late diagnosis also increases the risk of HIV related ill-health, of HIV being acquired by others, and significantly increases the costs of treatment.

Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of BHIVA said:

2011 saw the highest ever rate of new HIV diagnoses among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), a worrying trend that has seen a steady increase since 2007. But HIV is not limited to MSM. New diagnoses of HIV in heterosexuals where the infection was probably acquired in the UK is around 50%, almost double 2002 levels.

The high rate of HIV infection amongst heterosexuals, as well as the persistent trend of late diagnosis is particularly worrying.  Many people are simply not being signposted to take an HIV test.  With a general lack of routine HIV testing being commissioned for general medical admissions and in the general practice setting this is not altogether surprising.  We need a greater emphasis on HIV testing and on all aspects of prevention.

With successful treatment, a person with HIV in the UK can expect a near-normal lifespan. But for that to happen, early diagnosis is vital. Too many people only get tested when their HIV infection is already at an advanced stage, compromising both their own health and that of their partners. 

People with HIV are at risk of ‘falling through the gap’ as the bodies responsible for HIV commissioning and prevention in the new NHS systems find their feet.

BHIVA has published these standards in part to ensure that service providers and commissioners are informed about the treatment people with HIV should expect to access.

With this in mind, we have set out a clear description of what constitutes good care for people with HIV, matching the Standards of Care to the NHS outcomes framework. 

The new Standards also reflect the growing number of people with HIV who have significant social care needs which can impact upon patients’ clinical care and compromise their well-being.

People with HIV should to be at the heart of treatment and care, and be fully involved in decisions about their care both at an individual level and at structural and policy levels.

 Article originally posted on HIV Blogger: living positively

Getting to Zero on World AIDS Day – Michael Carchrie Campbell


Michael Carchrie Campbell, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats has supported The HIV Support Centre‘s Getting to Zero campaign as part of the World AIDS Campaign on World AIDS Day.

I know that it is vital for everyone in Northern Ireland to be educated about HIV. It is a virus that affects us all here. With the figures released today by the Public Health Agency showing a 20% increase on diagnoses it is clear that the health minister and health department need to do more to ensure that we get to Zero New Diagnoses.

Those of us who are living in Northern Ireland with HIV have a strong support from The HIV Support Centre. I can truly say that without the support that I have received there, I would not be here today. Please support them and wear a red ribbon today.

Rob Anderson, Chairman of The HIV Support Centre said:

“Please show your support by wearing a Red Ribbon and get tested and get tested early. What’s 60 seconds out of your day? It could save your life and that of those you love.”

I ask that everyone considers his advice and follows it. Doing so will help us Get to Zero.

The HIV Support Centre can be contacted on 028 9024 9268 or by visiting their website

Another policy, another delay: Poots does it again

Edwin Poots with Scottish Health Minister

Edwin Poots MLA together with the Scottish Health Minister. Maybe she can make him see some sense. Image by DUP Photos via Flickr

Once again it seems that Northern Ireland is going to be left behind by a Minister who has delayed policies in the past in another department.

Today Edwin Poots MLA, our Health Minister informed the Health Committee in the Assembly that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was not going to be lifted, unlike what is happening in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is clear that the Minister is not really taking the same advice as his counterparts across the water. A number of organisations and political parties have been making comments.

Are we expected to be self-sufficient with our own blood supply?

This is a fair point made by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project, if Northern Ireland is excluding donations, are we able to accept blood from the rest of the UK? I am not sure that we currently do accept blood from there – but surely it would possibly extend to donations of other organs.

The HIV Support Centre‘s new Director, Danny McQuillan response highlighted the need for focusing on the sexual behaviour of all blood donors. He also suggested that the continuance of this policy would discriminate and stigmatise people based on their sexual orientation:

We urge the Minister to re-think this decision and adopt a policy that will protect pubilc safety, a policy focusing on excluding those who engage in high-risk and unsafe sexual behaviour, not a policy that discriminates and stigmatises people based on their sexual orientation.

said Danny McQuillan, Director of The HIV Support Centre.

I really believe that it is time for Northern Ireland to ‘grow up’. Gay men are not the only ones that take part in high-risk sexual behaviour. How many other people are having unsafe sex regularly? It is likely that there are many, yet they are not banned for life. We need to look at this and get it sorted out.

NI water – alternative contacts


NIWater logoWith the ongoing shortage on water in Northern Ireland, and lack of information that is correct being distributed, it is important that people can contact NI Water. Therefore I am publishing alternative numbers to contact them on.

According to Say No to 0870 campaign, it is possible to contact Northern Ireland Water on numbers instead of the 0845 744 0088 number.

0845 744 0088 – NI Water’s published number

028 9016 8020 – alternative from

0800 051 5445 – freephone from landline.

Although I have not tried this in this particular instance, from mobile telephones, it is quite often possible to dial 0800 numbers by dialling without the initial 0. Therefore you could try

800 051 5445 – may work from mobiles (not tested).

crossposted across all my blogs.

A Lib Dem round up for World AIDS Day 2010


World Aids Day 2010 logo1 December 2010 saw many Liberal Democrats, bloggers and others, marking World AIDS Day across the United Kingdom, including Stephen Gilbert MP, Tim Farron MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Stephen Williams MP, Jenny Willott MP, Colin Ross, Stephen Glenn, Millennium Dome, Andrew Reeves, and myself.
Let’s have a quick look at what some of them said:

Stephen Gilbert MP

Stephen Gilbert MP

The openly gay MP for St Austell & Newquay, sent the following message:

Today is a really important day to raise awareness, raise money for HIV/AIDS, and to show our support for those with the illness.

Despite recent medical advances, HIV/AIDS remains a life-limiting illness and we still have a huge way to go to tackle it.

I urge everyone to join me today in support of the work of charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and RED to help those at home and across the world.

There are vigils and events around the UK to commemorate the day. LGBT Lib Dems will be present at events in Manchester, London, and elsewhere.

Stephen also tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons calling on Her Majesty’s Government to end the ban on gay and bisexual men, and their partners, being blood donors.

Stephen Gilbert said:

As an openly gay Member of Parliament, I am a passionate believer that we must end this ridiculous and situation where law is based on stigma not science. This is one important area where true equal rights still don’t exist for LGBT people and that must change.

Technological and scientific advances mean that this unsound ban just isn’t fit for the 21st Century. It’s time to reviewed this outdated legislation and allow science and common sense to prevail.

The text of the EDM reads:

That this House notes with concern that men who are openly gay or bisexual are barred for life from donating blood; further notes that the regulations which call for this life ban have been in place since the 1980s in response to the HIV pandemic and have not been updated since, despite greater understanding of the disease; further notes that New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia currently allow gay and bisexual men to give blood; believes that policy on blood donation, individual exclusion and time limits thereupon should be based on science not stigma; and calls on the Government to introduce an evidence-based approach to allow as many people as possible, regardless of their sexuality, safely to donate blood.

Early Day motion 1120

Please write to your MP to ask them to sign this EDM to highlight and support this important issue.

Lynne Featherstone MP

Minister for Equalities has made a video…

She has asked that everyone takes the ‘Count Me In’ Pledge.

I will know my HIV status,
I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status,
I will take personal responsibility for using condoms,
I will value myself and my health and,
I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread.

Stephen Williams MP

Stephen Williams MP

MP for Bristol West said:

Like millions of people around the world, I am wearing my red ribbon for World Aids Day. Over the last 6 years I have worked with a variety of Aids related charities, most notably the Terrance Higgins Trust, on several HIV issues both in Bristol and in Westminster.

I have constantly spoken up for the need for proper sex and relationships education in schools, for affordable anti-retro viral drugs for Africa and for access for treatment for asylum seekers in Britain.

Today I used the rare opportunity of a question to the Prime Minister to ask David Cameron about the coalition government’s plans to combat HIV. The answer is that we are doing a lot, at home and abroad. Yesterday’s launch of the Public Health White Paper signals a new approach to public health, often the cinderella of the NHS. And abroad, we will be the first major country to hit 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid, much of which will benefit public health programmes in the developing world.

Jenny Willott MP

from Cardiff Central

Jenny Willott MP

Jenny Willott MP

spoke in the debate on HIV in Westminster Hall organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. She asked:

I have just had a baby and I was tested automatically for HIV during my pregnancy. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that extending such automatic testing could play a valuable role in identifying cases very early so that people can receive the treatment that, as he said, will not only help them with their own medical needs, but prevent them from spreading the condition?

HC Deb, 1 December 2010, c302WH

and later on in the debate she said:

Will the hon. Gentleman also suggest that we need to tackle the stereotypes about the kind of person who might have HIV? That is one issue for people who do not go to their doctor, or who do go but whose GP does not pick up on it. As Pauline Latham mentioned earlier, GPs may not think that a middle-aged, heterosexual white woman is likely to be HIV-positive. We need to tackle those stereotypes.

HC Deb, 1 December 2010, c306WH

Incoming Liberal Democrat party president,

Tim Farron MP

Tim Farron MP, President Elect of the Liberal Democrats

boarded the Stop AIDS Campaign bus outside Parliament this week to show his support for the effort to bring an end to children being born with HIV by 2015.
Commenting afterwards, Tim said:

It is important we mark World AIDS Day however we can. Last year 400,000 babies were born with HIV or contracted it through their mother’s breast milk. But there are simple and affordable medicines to prevent this. We’re asking the Government to support the campaign for an AIDS-free generation born in 2015.

The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria has saved nearly six million lives since its creation in 2002 and if fully funded, could ensure virtually all babies are born HIV free by 2015.

Diarmaid McDonald, Coordinator of the Stop AIDS Campaign said,

The UK could lead the world in ending children being born with HIV by 2015. By giving its fair share to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria the government could make this incredible goal possible. I’m delighted by Tim’s support for our campaign.

Michael Carchrie Campbell

Here in Northern Ireland, I came out on my other blog Gyronny Herald as a person living with HIV.

I gave the example of how one person can start to help to break the stigma of living with HIV.

Unsurprisingly given my job and other interests, I was at a political conference a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend, who was also in attendance. He was asking what I was doing with my life, I told him that I was still working for my boss two days a week. He asked what I did the rest of the time.

I said:

“I help out down at The HIV Support Centre in Belfast. I’m a Trustee there.”

He asked:

“Is there much need of that, here?”
“Well, going on last year’s figures, there are about two people diagnosed in Belfast each week.”
“That’s bad.”
“Do you know anyone living with HIV?”
“No, I don’t.”

I stretched out my hand, he shook it, and I said,

“Hello, my name’s Michael, and I am living with HIV – you do now.”

My friend was rather stumped for words. But he then asked about how I was coping, and he said that I looked really well, and that I was coping well.

Here in Northern Ireland one of the best ways that you can support people living with HIV is by supporting our own local HIV-specific charity, The HIV Support Centre, which is based in Belfast. As a trustee and as a client there I know the work that they do is vital. Many have gone there when they think all is lost, when they think that their lives are over, and the staff and clients there help to turn them around, set them back on the road to better health, and to sorting out their own mental health when they learn the often devastating news that they are HIV positive.

If you would like to be support The HIV Support Centre, I know that they welcome donations not only of money, but of time, as well. Please visit their website to see how you can make a difference.

Opinion: Catholic Church opposition to abortion congress



Primate of All Ireland His Eminence Sean, Cardinal Brady


Health professions from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been attending a conference at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle to discuss abortion and clinical practice. This is a major breakthrough step in my opinion as currently nowhere in Ireland is abortion freely available and it is only used in extreme conditions to protect the life of the mother.

Of course the fact that abortion is not available in Ireland hasn’t and doesn’t stop Irish women from aborting their babies. They get on a ferry or plane and head to Scotland, Wales or England. Whatever the opinions of the objectors, the pro-life campaigners and the churches here it is a fact of life. Indeed 1,200 Northern Irish women, all UK citizens, spend £1m in 2009 going to England to have a termination.

The Catholic Bishops headed by the Cardinal have issued a statement saying they ‘deplore and oppose’ the two-day conference.

“The dignity of the human person is absolute and inviolable. We call on public representatives to express their opposition to this conference and to promote and defend a legislative environment which respects the inherent dignity of life in all its stages.

“A conference which promotes themes such as Manual Vacuum Aspiration and Issues in Late Abortion is an affront to the dignity of the human person.

“It is gravely immoral. Respect should be shown in all circumstances for the life and well-being of both the mother and the unborn child.”

I ask what about the dignity and well-being of the women and teenage girls who are going across the water to get what they want, even though it is not available here? There may be complications both physically and emotionally that our health care providers here need to deal with both before and after the procedure.

The conference covers not only the procedures that are used as mentioned by the Bishops above, but also the support and counselling provision required those who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. These are vital services that need to be addressed even if the actual provision of a termination is still outlawed across the island. The act of aborting the foetus is not the only health issue that health care professionals may have to deal with. There are possible emotional scars afterwards or there may be gynecological issues that arise. We need to fully equip our health care professionals to deal with these eventualities or else our women will have to seek that assistance across the water as well, once more away from the people they love.

My personal stance is a pro-life pro-choicer. If I was ever asked for advise I would try to counsel any friend/s to try their best to go with the pregnancy to term. There are alternatives, even if they don’t feel able to cope with raising the little one themselves. However, I know that choice isn’t easy for everyone therefore I accept the right of the parents to choose what is best for them including the option to abort.