Dáithí MacGabhann, who inspired overhaul of NI organ donation law, set for heart operation

Dáithí, the boy who inspired "Dáithí's law", is flying to England for a heart operation Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A six-year-old boy who inspired an overhaul of Northern Ireland’s organ donation laws has been flown to England for a cardiac procedure.

Dáithí MacGabhann has been on the heart transplant waiting list since 2018.

His family has tirelessly campaigned for the legislation on organ donation to be changed to an opt-out system to help increase the number of donors.

While Stormont MLAs passed Dáithí's Law last February, it requires additional enabling legislation, which has not been able to be passed with the devolved government currently in flux.

His family has urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to step in and pass the enabling legislation at Westminster.

On Wednesday, one year on from the passing of Dáithí's law by the Assembly, the six-year-old was flown to Newcastle for a cardiac procedure.

He was transported by the Northern Ireland fixed wing Air Ambulance which is operated by Woodgate Aviation from Belfast International Airport.

Dáithí and a full medical team boarded the King Air B200 Air Ambulance at Woodgate Aviation for the 45-minute flight to Newcastle and then onwards to Freeman’s Hospital.

He was accompanied by consultant Dr Jeremy Lyons from Aeromedics, nurse Shauna O’Hare, and at the controls were pilot Nick Byrne and co-pilot Micah Lynn.

His father Mairtin said they hope it will be a routine procedure, and they will be able to return home within a few days.

“It’s a year to the day since Robin Swann (then Health Minister) brought Dáithí's Law in with the hope that it could become law in the spring of 2023,” he said.

“A year to the day, and it’s a much different situation and we’re heading to Newcastle for Dáithí to have a very important procedure. We’re hoping it’s a routine procedure and will be back home in a few days.”

He added: “We hope within those few days that we might have some further answers from the Secretary of State.

“We’re always optimistic. The first time we used Woodgate, he was given a 10% chance of surviving and he got through then. So, if we had hope then, we certainly have hope now. And hope is all we do have.”

Máirtín went on to praise the service provided by Woodgate Aviation as “absolutely phenomenal”.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons on Wednesday, DUP MP Carla Lockhart called on the Secretary of State to progress the necessary secondary legislation provisions at Westminster to allow Dáithí's Law to be enacted.

“Secondary legislation is required for this law to become operational in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“This legislation has the potential to transform the lives of so many people requiring a transplant procedure.

“We need the Secretary of State to take such legislation forward as soon as possible. He has shown recently his willingness to bring legislation through the Commons that impacts upon the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.

“My call today is that he brings forward this life saving legislation in the same way.

“All MPs representing Northern Ireland are united in this call to the Secretary of State. Let us do this for Dáithí, and for all those awaiting that gift of life that comes from organ donation.”

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