Dáithí's Law to proceed following ‘exceptional’ Westminster intervention
Six-year-old Dáithí is in need of a heart transplant. The legislation has been delayed due to a lack of Executive in Northern Ireland
A stalled organ donation law for Northern Ireland will pass at Westminster following an intervention from the Secretary of State.
The legislation – around an opt-out donation system – is named after six-year-old Belfast boy Daithi Mac Gabhann, who is waiting for a heart transplant.
Chris Heaton-Harris said he will bring forward an amendment to the Executive Formation Bill “to see the law become a reality.”
He said the Government’s intervention amid the powersharing impasse at Stormont was “exceptional”.
“I have been incredibly moved by Dáithí’s story and his family’s dedication. I know that the party leaders in Northern Ireland feel the same” he said
"In recognition of just how important this issue is, I have decided to bring forward an amendment to the Executive Formation Bill which will allow for the overdue legislation to be made by the NI Department of Health and see this change to the law become a reality.
“I would like to reiterate that, if the amendment is selected, the UK Government’s intervention here is exceptional. Decisions such as these should be being taken by locally-elected decision-makers. I urge the parties to take the necessary steps to tackle all the other vitally important measures, just like this one, that they could deliver in Northern Ireland by simply agreeing to restore the institutions.”
Six-year-old Dáithí is in need of a heart transplant. The legislation has been delayed due to a lack of Executive in Northern Ireland.
On the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, Dáithí's father Mairtin said it was hard to put his “emotions into words” following the NI Secretary’s announcement.
"It’s an emotional day for us, it’s been an incredibly hard few weeks for us. (Chris Heaton-Harris) said it was exceptional, and our Dáithí is exceptional so we are elated. We can’t believe it, we thought we were boarding the plane to go to London for one last ditch try to get this through.
"We’re still going to see this gets through, we can’t take our eye off the ball.”
Mr Mac Gabhann said he was informed after a text from Mr Heaton-Harris’s officials asking him if he was able to take a call late on Sunday evening.
“He called saying he hoped he had good news for us and explained the situation. It was just an incredible phone call, he probably has a a sore ear this morning because I shouted down the phone to him,” said an overjoyed Mr Mac Gabhann.
“I’m sure he didn’t hear me down the phone, he heard me from London from Belfast.”
Once the legislation progresses it would bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK in terms of organ donation.
Mr Mac Gabhann also said Mr Heaton-Harris reiterated to him progress on Dáithí's Law “should have been made in the Assembly” but had “praise for our MPs.”
“He said because it’s Government-amended, the Speaker won’t be able to reject it and it will get Royal Accent by the 6th March.”
He added it will likely be “early summer” for the legislation to fully proceed and he and his family are planning in staying in London until Thursday.
Sharing a tweet from former Irish politician Máiría Cahill who praised him for originating the idea to amend the Executive Formation Bill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “delighted” for Dáithí's family.
"I am delighted for Dáithí and his family and greatly admire their perseverance and that of all who supported this campaign. I thank Chris Heaton-Harris for his cooperation.
"The right outcome is being achieved and let’s pray that Daithi soon gets the new heart he needs.”
The Head of British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland, Fearghal McKinney welcomed the news and praised the Mac Gabhann family for their hard work.
“First and foremost, this is fantastic news for Dáithí, for his parents, Máirtín and Seph who have worked so hard and campaigned so tirelessly to get to this point, and all those waiting for the gift of life" he said.
“It is a testament to the dedication and commitment shown by the Mac Gabhann family and all those who have campaigned for so long to see this potentially lifesaving legislation in place.
“We all wanted to see this legislation progressing and all those on transplant waiting lists will welcome this news.
“We now look forward to this legislation being implemented along with the public information campaign around organ donation and ultimately, to more lives being saved.”
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