Organ donation campaigner 'disappointed and angry' after meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary

Marc Mallett reports

The father of a boy at the forefront of a campaign to implement new organ donation laws in Northern Ireland has said he feels "disappointed and angry" after meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Daíthí's law, named after six-year-old Daíthí MacGabhann who is waiting for a heart transplant, has been delayed due to a lack of power-sharing executive.

Legislation for the opt-out donation system was passed by MLAs at the Assembly last year but the secondary legislation required to implement it cannot be approved at Stormont due to an ongoing political stalemate.

Daíthí and his parents Mairtin and Seph have been campaigning for the new legislation. They met with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris at Hillsborough on Wednesday.

After the meeting, Mr MacGabhann said he had been told it would take too long for the Government to intervene and pass the laws at Westminster.

"Daithi's Law deserves to have a go-live date in spring as planned but after the meeting today it looks like we're not getting that," he said.

Mairtin MacGabhann recounted the family's meeting with Chris Heaton-Harris.

"He did speak to us not just as a politician, he spoke to us as a family man as well," he said.

"He shared our frustrations with our politicians, but we already know that, we're already frustrated with our politicians, the whole place is frustrated with our politicians.

"But our point was that there is no assembly and, without the assembly, this secondary legislation can't go through.

"We're bitterly disappointed and, to be honest, I'm just so angry at the whole situation. We told the secretary of state that this is much bigger than Daíthí's law - this is a beacon of hope for the organ donation and transplantation community here."

Mairtin MacGabhann said the family would consider legal action to try to get the law introduced and were also prepared to go directly to the Prime Minister in an effort to get the situation resolved.

He expressed concern that the family was being punished for the Stormont impasse and being used in a "political game of football".

He said time was not on the family's side as he stressed the seriousness of Daíthí's heart condition.

"We were at the funeral of a young boy last week who died of the same condition as Daíthí - time is not on our side, we don't have the time," he said.

"That is what basically the secretary of state said to us, that it will take too much time if it was to go through him."

Former DUP first minister Paul Givan, whose resignation last February triggered the collapse of the executive, met with the MacGabhann family after the meeting.

He insisted Chris Heaton-Harris could move rapidly to implement the law at Westminster.

"The Secretary of State has this within his power to take through legislation rapidly at Westminster and the Government really do need to act because this is an issue that all of the parties in Northern Ireland have given support to," he said.

Mr Givan added: "There is no excuse for the Secretary of State not to be moving this forward and it can be taken forward rapidly. The legislation is there."

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