THE leaders of Northern Ireland’s five largest political parties have asked the British Government to intervene to process an outstanding piece of organ donation legislation.
A letter signed by Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill, the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Doug Beattie and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP was sent to the office of Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris today.
In it the cross-party politicians write in support of a legislative intervention at Westminster to give effect to the soft opt-out organ donation process approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly last year.
The legislation is known as Dáithí’s Law, named after Dáithí MacGabhann, a six-year-old boy who is currently waiting on a heart donation in Belfast.
The opt-out system was passed by MLAs at Stormont in 2022 but the enacting of the legislation has been delayed due to the political stalemate in the North.
In the letter they state: “The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill received Royal Assent on March 30, 2022.
“This legislation, passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, has become known as Dáithí’s Law”. It is named after little Dáithí MacGabhann, who has been awaiting the gift of a new heart.
“The law changed our process for organ donation to an opt-out system.
“It has become clear that further legislation is needed for the opt-out system to become fully operational,” they add.
“As Leaders of the five main parties, we write to ask that your Department works with our Department of Health and legislates in Parliament to ensure this new system for organ donation can be operational as soon as possible.
“We understand that the Department of Health has draft legislation prepared which could enable the law to be operational by the Spring of 2023.”
Earlier today the SDLP's health spokesperson Colin McGrath called the delay in enacting Dáithí’s law “an absolute disgrace”.
Mr McGrath said the DUP’s Stormont boycott could not be allowed to stand in the way of the important changes introduced through the legislation.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful this legislation that the MacGabhann family fought so hard for has been delayed due to the political failure that is having a harmful impact on everyone in the North,” he said.
“Following Dáithí’s story and his family’s campaign has been inspirational and I’m extremely disheartened that such a positive story has met difficulties due to the DUP’s ongoing boycott of the Stormont institutions.”
He added: “Every effort should be made to find a way around this delay and I would urge the NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to intervene and remove this needless hurdle so that patients can benefit without delay.
“This is the latest in a long line of issues that has hit a brick wall due to the lack of government here and no matter how much they try to avoid it, until the DUP do the right thing and get back to work people will continue to suffer.”