As the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris arrives this week in the United States for meetings with the business, community leaders and politicians, the family of a six-year-old Belfast boy will meet the British politician on his return to Belfast to press him to legislate to change organ donation law in Northern Ireland.
The family of Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who is on an organ transplant waiting list, have been lobbying politicians for four years in their campaign to change organ donation law in the North.
In 2021, new legislation went through Stormont that was due to come into effect this year. It would see the introduction of a soft-opt out system whereby people would automatically become organ donors unless they state otherwise. However, with Stormont not sitting because of the DUP boycott, the law's introduction has been delayed, much to the frustration of the Mac Gabhann family.
Now the leaders of the five main parties have written to the Secretary of State calling on the British government to legislate at Westminster and bring in "Dáithí’s Law."
“Time is not on the side of those waiting on the gift of live,” Dáithí’s father Máirtín said.
“There’s not a lot we can do as parents for Dáithí, and that’s a very hard situation to be in when you can’t protect your child. If anyone deserves to see Dáithí’s Law live, it’s our Dáithí.
“Our politicians can’t do much to help Dáithí’s situation, but they could at least have the decency to do that for him. If this is delayed until October, or a few months, what happens then when there’s no sitting assembly. Do we go through this again? Next spring maybe? We just don’t know.
“One thing that is uncertain is Dáithí’s future and without the gift of life I don’t know how long Dáithí will last, so if anyone deserves to see this in place and live, it’s Dáithí.”
Máirtín said he wants to see Dáithí’s Law “go live" in spring 2023.
“We all want Stormont to deliver it, that would be the easiest way for it to go through, but as of tomorrow there isn’t going to be an assembly. What we’re going to do now is put pressure on the Secretary of State to meet with us.
“We should be celebrating Dáithí’s Law going live. We should be celebrating the life-saving law now in place. To me, all the hard-fought arguments were won last year. We aren’t taking this sitting down, and we’re going to fight this until the end.”
The Mac Gabhann family will meet with the Secretary of State on February 1, a date which coincides with National Heart Month.