The Rainbow Project, the largest organisation in Northern Ireland, which promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people has launched the second phase of its campaign to remove unnecessary and stigmatising barriers to gay and bisexual men becoming blood donors on World Blood Donor Day (14th June).

Earlier this month, 8 days after her appointment to the position of Minister of Health for Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill MLA announced that she would instruct the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service to amend its protocols and remove the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. This move brought Northern Ireland into line with the other regions of the UK and was welcomed by The Rainbow Project as a historic decision as well as recognition of the campaigning which The Rainbow Project and many other activists have been vocal about for 10 years.

However, the new regulations state that gay and bisexual men can only become blood donors if they have refrained from sex with another man for 12 months; meaning that the vast majority of gay and bisexual men are still barred from becoming donors, even those in long-term monogamous relationships who pose absolutely no risk to the blood supply.

To this end, The Rainbow Project has announced that it will continue to campaign for blood donation policies which are based on evidence and risk and not on the sexual orientation of potential donors; a policy which stigmatises gay and bisexual men. The Rainbow Project has also announced that it will form a partnership with US-based advocacy campaign Blood Equality to highlight the international nature of the bans on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and to share best practice and evidence.

Speaking about the blood donations campaign and international partnership, John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said:

‘We were delighted to see the end of the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and we thank Minister O’Neill for moving so quickly on this policy change. However, as we have made clear for many years, we do not just want to exchange the lifetime ban for an unreasonable one year deferral. Instead we want blood donation policies which are based on science not stigma and which do not automatically write off a whole community as a ‘threat’ to others.

‘At The Rainbow Project, we recognise that this issue is not merely confined to Northern Ireland or the UK, but is a global issue where gay and bisexual men are denied the ability to donate blood for no other reason than their sexual orientation. To this end, we are delighted to announce our partnership with the US-based campaign Blood Equality who, like us, are campaigning for blood donation policy to be based on science and not stigma. This partnership will allow us to develop more international links for sourcing and sharing the best available scientific evidence so that we can finally do away with discriminatory blood bans and have blood donation policy based on risk and not sexual orientation.

‘This international partnership is important to us to show our solidarity with our LGB&T family across the world and to build relationships with our community in other countries. At this time, we mourn the horrendous violence and loss of life from the homophobic attack on Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, but a bitter irony is that, while hospitals were calling out for blood donations to save the lives of victims, gay and bisexual men were still banned from donating blood to their LGB&T sisters and brothers. This must end.’

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell has announced a £4million expansion by Bloc Blinds that will create 93 new manufacturing jobs in Magherafelt by 2018. Supported by Invest Northern Ireland and First Trust Bank, Bloc Blinds’ investment includes new manufacturing facilities and extensive market development activities to help drive export sales, particularly in Europe and the US.

Jonathan Bell said: “Bloc Blinds is a growing innovative business and this announcement is welcome news for Magherafelt and the local manufacturing industry. The significant investment in new premises, recruitment of the new staff and increased marketing and development activities will help Bloc Blinds position itself a global player in the window covering market.

“The 93 new manufacturing jobs to be recruited over the next three years will contribute £1.7million annually in additional salaries to the local economy. With full manufacturing and multi skilled training provided to all production employees at Bloc Blinds, this expansion offers attractive roles for those returning to work or seeking alternative employment.

“Invest Northern Ireland’s offer of £465,000 is helping this indigenous manufacturer to implement its growth plans quickly so it can maximise opportunities in a worldwide market.”

Bloc Blinds specialises in the design and manufacture of window blinds and recently moved into its renovated and extended new premises at Station Road, Magherafelt.

Cormac Diamond, Managing Director of Bloc Blinds, said: “This exciting investment follows encouraging business growth in recent years and underpins our ambition to increase sales particularly in Europe and the US.

“Our new manufacturing facility brings the current Bloc Blind lines under the one roof which will help increase production and operating efficiencies. The support and advice of Invest Northern Ireland so far has been invaluable and its support with this expansion will ensure that we have the resources and skill set in place to achieve our goals.”

First Trust Bank is also supporting Bloc Blinds’ business development activities. Welcoming the investment and job creation announcement, Edel McCooe, Regional Director, First Trust Bank said: “Bloc Blinds has built up a strong reputation as an innovator due to their clever, precise designs and solutions and this is being reflected in their growing customer base right across the UK, Europe and America. We have supported Cormac and his vision for the company over the last 10 years and we are delighted to back their latest growth and expansion phase which is creating skilled jobs for local people and helping to ensure Northern Ireland’s prowess for innovative manufacturing solutions is known world-wide.” marketing

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has called on the new Health Minister to guarantee the future of daytime care services in Gortin and Dromore for older people. Sinn Fein were part of a cross party campain to stop the closure of these services planned by the previous DUP Health Minister.

Mr McCrossan said: “In the last mandate we welcomed vocal support from Sinn Fein in our campaign to maintain daytime care services in Gortin and Dromore. Their MLAs pledged to do all they could to fight for the future of its service users and staff. Now that Sinn Fein have been left with the Health portfolio, they now have the power to make good on their promises.

“The new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill must guarantee the future of these vital services in their current locations. If she does not, id she proceeds with their removal, Sinn Fein will be directly responsible for the further isolation of vulnerable older people living in rural communities.

“Sinn Fein must now demonstrate that their support for this cause goes beyond strong words in the paper and a photo-opportunity.”

A Tyrone student has been presented with a top award in this year’s 62nd Texaco Children¹s Art Competition.

Pictured is Cameron Dobson (7), a pupil at The Howard Primary, Moygashel, who won a Special Merit Award in the competition. Presenting him with the award is James Twohig, Director Ireland Operations of Valero.


June 2016
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