'Westminster our last hope,' says Dáithí's dad after Stormont fails to elect speaker

The father of six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann has said Westminster is his last hope for the implementation of opt-out organ transplant legislation in Northern Ireland.

Máirtín Mac Gabhann said the decision to enact Dáithí's law now falls to the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris after MLAs once again failed to elect a speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The UK Government has indicated that it is unlikely an amendment can be made to the executive bill making its way through parliament.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office added: "It is extremely disappointing that the NI parties have been unable to elect a speaker today.

“Electing a Speaker would have allowed the Assembly to sit and progress Daithi’s Law, as well as show voters in Northern Ireland that their locally-elected representatives are ready to get back to work.

“The Secretary of State shares the frustrations of Dáithí and the MacGabhann family that the political impasse in Northern Ireland is causing unnecessary delays to life-saving legislation.

“The quickest and simplest way to implement Dáithí’s Law remains for the Northern Ireland Parties to progress this legislation through the Assembly."

The opt-out organ donation legislation is named after Dáithí, who is waiting for a heart transplant.

Dáithí and his parents, Máirtín Mac Gabhann and Seph Ni Mheallain were at Stormont on Tuesday to watch the ill-fated attempt to restore the institutions, as the DUP once again refused to vote on the matter meaning business could not resume.

The DUP removed its first minister from the executive last year, due to the party's ongoing concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol. Since May's election it has refused to return to power sharing and take up the deputy first minister position.

Mr Mac Gabhann described Tuesday's assembly recall as a very disappointing day, adding that while his family were not surprised, they had had a little hope that there might have been a chance of a fairytale ending for Dáithí's Law.

He said Westminster was now their last hope, and vowed to focus on encouraging Parliament to pass the necessary regulations to enact the law.

He said: "We'll take any hope now. I think it's down to our last hope - at this moment it is Westminster.

"People want this resolved and they want it resolved now. So we'll not stop until it's done," he added.

Dáithí himself was in fine form at Stormont wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day - he also said it was time for the organ donation law to be put in place.

During the Assembly recall, Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill said: "The power is in the gift of each party and every single MLA here to save lives in this place today.

"Put simply, not to do so is a dereliction of duty".

The DUP's Paul Givan said his party supported the organ donation legislation. In his opening remarks, however, he reiterated the DUP's stance that it would not nominate a speaker and engage in power sharing until its concerns over the protocol are resolved. He called on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to implement the legislation in the absence of Stormont.

Mr Givan argued: "The government has legislated on other issues, same sex marriage, abortion, Irish Language and they were able to do that on issues which were much more controversial than an issue like this. "I appeal to the Secretary of State, he can do this, he should do this," he said.

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