Father of boy who inspired organ donation law says Westminster is ‘last hope’

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The father of a young boy who inspired a new law on organ donation in Northern Ireland has vowed to take their fight to get it enacted to Westminster.

Mairtin MacGabhann said he was disappointed but not surprised after Stormont MLAs again failed to elect a speaker which meant they could not pass the necessary regulations to implement Daithi’s Law.

His son Daithi, six, is currently waiting for a heart transplant.

The new legislation will introduce an opt-out organ donation system in the region.

The DUP is refusing to participate in the devolved government until its concerns around Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

The failure of the Assembly to act now puts the focus on Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and those MPs with constituencies in the region.

Assembly recalled to Stormont
Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill meets six-year-old Daithi Mac Gabhann in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said a shout of “joke” in the Assembly chamber after failing to elect a speaker shows his family are not the only ones feeling frustrated.

“It’s a very disappointing day for us, it’s Valentines Day, heart day, it’s also congenital heart defect day, and there was an opportunity here to have a bit of a fairy tale ending where Daithi’s Law is concerned, and unfortunately that’s not to be,” he said.

“We’re not at all surprised but we’ve never lost hope, and even up until that last second we still had a wee bit of hope. But I suppose today gives us the opportunity now to solely focus on Westminster, the Secretary of State, to Jeffrey Donaldson’s amendment.

“We’ll want to speak with our MPs again, and there was talk of a joint amendment. It’s very clear from the floor (of the Assembly) today that all parties are in support and it’s just very disappointing that it couldn’t get over the line today.

“We’re not letting this rest, we’re still going to fight, what we’ll probably do now is look at flights for next week.

“Now we are taking the fight to London.”

The DUP say the regulations can be passed at Westminster, however, earlier this week the government warned this is “highly unlikely” to succeed.

Mr McGabhann has asked for clarity around the process at Westminster.

“We just hope we can get a bit of transparency now, we’ve heard one thing, we’ve seen other things, we just need the truth, we need to know what’s going to happen at Westminster,” he said.

“I am calling on our MPs and the Secretary of State for honesty, for transparency, what can we do, is this now possible?

“Is this game of political football over? I hope so. I hope now that we can get the answers that not only we need, that we deserve.”

An NIO spokesperson said the Secretary of State “shares the frustrations of Daithi and the MacGabhann family that the political impasse in Northern Ireland is causing unnecessary delays to life-saving legislation”.

They added: “The quickest and simplest way to implement Daithi’s Law remains for the Northern Ireland parties to progress this legislation through the Assembly.”

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