Belfast organ donors honoured with new Botanic Gardens sculpture

Belfast mayor Brian Kingston and Galway mayor Noel Larkin at the sculpture unveiling in Botanic Gardens. Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Hughes

A SCULPTURE commemorating those who have given the gift of life through organ donation was unveiled yesterday in Belfast.

The candle-shaped memorial has been placed in the grounds of Botanic Gardens and was unveiled by the Belfast lord mayor Brian Kingston.

He was joined at the ceremony by his civic counterpart Noel Larkin, the mayor of Galway.

The sculpture was gifted to the city of Belfast by the Galway Civic Trust on behalf of the city of Galway.

Double transplant recipient Pat O'Neill (51) was involved in bringing the memorial to Belfast after seeing a similar sculpture in Galway.

The father-of-two from north Belfast had a kidney transplanted twice and has represented Northern Ireland in the Transplant Games.

"It can be very emotional especially when you get your first transplant. Knowing that a family has gifted that so that you can live, it's an emotional rollercoaster," he said.

He described the sculpture as "absolutely amazing", and said he hopes it will raise awareness of organ donation.

Speaking after the unveiling Mr O'Neill, who works in the city council's parks department, said: "It was very moving and there were very good speakers.

"I hope it will will raise awareness for organ donation. It's also a place for people to go and reflect if someone has lost a loved one or if someone has received an organ."

The sculpture was commissioned by the organ donation community in Northern Ireland from Strange Boat Donor Foundation, which created the Circle of Life National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden, located in Salthill Galway.

Strange Boat was set up by Denis and Martina Goggin following the death of their son, Éamonn in a car accident in 2006. His organs were donated for transplantation.

Dennis worked alongside sculptor Ray Flaherty from the Galway Stone and Salvage Gallery to create the piece, with the candle symbolising the light of humanity that shines through organ donation.

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