Northern Ireland news

Transplant list toddler helps reopen Belfast charity shop closed by Primark fire

Dáithí Mac Gabhann (2) helped open the British Heart Foundation pop-up shop in Fountain Street. He is pictured with mum Seph Ni Mheallain, left, and store manager Louise Cardwell. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
By Mairead Holland

A WEST Belfast boy on the waiting list for a heart transplant has cut the ribbon to officially open a new charity shop forced to close following the Primark fire.

Little Dáithí Mac Gabhann (2) was guest of honour as the British Heart Foundation reopened its doors in a new pop-up shop in Fountain Street in Belfast city centre yesterday.

The shop was previously in Castle Street but was forced to close in August after the devastating fire that destroyed the Primark building.

The original shop has been unable to reopen since the blaze at Bank Buildings, so the pop-up shop has had to be stocked from scratch with public donations.

Little Dáithí, who was born with rare hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was joined by his parents Seph and Máirtín as he helped Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey officially open the new shop yesterday.

Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey and Dáithí Mac Gabhann alongside his parents Seph and Máirtín join BHF shop staff and volunteers to cut the ribbon at the new popup shop in Fountain Street. Picture by Presseye/ BHF NI

Mr Mac Gabhann said he was delighted their son, who was born with a congenital heart defect and is on the waiting list for a heart transplant, had been chosen as the guest of honour.

"We know more than most the impact of congenital heart disease on ordinary families and it’s great to know that there is important work going on out there to try to find treatments and cures for Dáithí and children like him," he said.

When the British Heart Foundation was formed in 1961 the majority of babies born with a congenital heart condition died before their first birthday.

Research has helped to turn that around, and now eight out of 10 babies survive to adulthood.

Dáithi Mac Gabhann who is currently on the transplant register. Picture Mal McCann.

Shop manager Louise Cardwell said: "It has been a difficult few months and our staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to secure this new site and get it open in time for Christmas.

"It really is the best Christmas present we could have asked for to be open again in Belfast."

Ms Hargey said the opening was "great news for staff, volunteers and the charity as it continues its great work into lifesaving research into heart disease from funds raised from donations and trading at the shop".

She called on the public to visit the new shop, donate generously and support the charity in the busy run-up to Christmas.

Daithi Mac Gabhann taking part in a recent initiative to highlight the need for transplant donors. Picture Mal McCann.

"The opening of the new shop in Fountain Street also adds to the recent developments of the re-opening of nearby city centre businesses closed as a result of the Bank Buildings fire, new outlets as well as the opening of the pedestrian walkway joining Donegall Place and Royal Avenue - further wonderful news for shoppers and visitors to the city centre," she said.

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