STALLED organ donation laws for Northern Ireland will progress in Westminster this week thanks to an “exceptional” intervention by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.
The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill has become known as Dáithí's Law, after six-year-old Belfast boy Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who is awaiting a heart transplant.
Introduced last year by then Health Minister Robin Swann of the UUP, it would make organ donation in Northern Ireland an opt-out process, however it has stalled due to the political stalemate at Stormont.
With no date yet in sight for when the government may reform in the North, fears have been growing for Dáithí and those like him in need of a transplant.
Yet over the weekend, Mr Heaton-Harris confirmed in a phonecall to Dáithí’s father Máirtín that he would push the legislation through in Westminster this week.
Mr Mac Gabhann said it was an "emotional day", when he got the news, adding that he “roared” with excitement.
Mr Heaton-Harris said the Government intervention was “exceptional”, claiming such work was the responsibility of politicians in the North.
“I have been incredibly moved by Daithi’s story and his family’s dedication,” he said.
“I know that the party leaders in Northern Ireland feel the same.
“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,” he confirmed.
“I would like to reiterate that, if the amendment is selected, the UK Government’s intervention here is exceptional,” he added.
“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.”
Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP welcomed the British Government’s commitment to progressing Dáithí’s Law at Westminster.
Mr Eastwood said: “I’m delighted that Dáithí’s Law is set to get over the line this week at Westminster and the SDLP will be there giving it our full support.
“This important legislation should have been progressed at Stormont long ago, but the important thing is that it will now be introduced and provide renewed hope to those on organ transplant waiting lists.”
He added: “This progress, despite significant challenges, is testament to the work of Dáithí MacGabhann’s family who have fought so hard to make this a reality.
“They know better than anyone what it’s like to have a loved one in need of a transplant and their determination to help those in a similar position and their refusal to take no for an answer has been truly inspiring.
“The MacGabhann family should be so proud of all that they have achieved throughout their campaign. As a result of this legislation people’s lives will be saved and others will be significantly changed for the better.
“I can think of no greater legacy than that and am looking forward to being in the House of Commons on Wednesday to help get this vital Bill through.”
Mr Heaton-Harris has confirmed the Government will table its own amendment to the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill when it is brought before the Commons tomorrow (Wednesday, February 22).