Northern Ireland

Dáithi Mac Gabhann’s campaigning father Máirtín named Ulster University Postgraduate student of the year

Dr Phil Ramsey, Rev Cheryl Meban, Máirtín and Dáithí Mac Gabhann and Prof Geroge Kernoghan after Máirtín was presented with Ulster University's Convocation Postgraduate Student of the Year award at Ulster University Winter Graduation Ceremony at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann (Mal McCann)

A MAN who has campaigned for a new heart for his young son Dáithí, has been awarded the accolade of Postgraduate Student of the Year by Ulster University.

Máirtín Mac Gabhann was honoured at winter graduation on Monday.

The Mac Gabhann family have also recently welcomed two new arrivals as Dáithí's twin brothers, Pádraig and Declan, were born earlier in December.

Mr Mac Gabhann began his studies in September 2022 while tirelessly campaigning from Stormont to Downing Street on behalf of his son, Daithi, who has battled Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) since birth.

The young boy, who has been on the organ transplant waiting list for more than 2,000 days, inspired a change in Northern Ireland’s organ donation laws.

Dáithí Mac Gabhann at the Waterfront Hall where his father Máirtín received Ulster University's Convocation Postgraduate Student of the Year award . Picture by Mal McCann (Mal McCann)

The seven-year-old has met leaders including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill and former health minister Robin Swann during the high-profile campaign.

Most adults are now considered potential organ donors after Daithi’s Law came into effect last year.

Mr Mac Gabhann said he is proud of the campaign.

“I am truly honoured to receive the Ulster University Convocation Postgraduate Student of the Year 2023 Award,” he said.

“Being a student here has been an incredible journey, and I’m immensely proud of how the course has helped me lead the Donate4Daithi campaign in raising awareness of organ donation and the introduction of Daithi’s Law.

“This recognition is not just mine but a testament to the support of my family — Seph and our children, Daithi, Cairbre, Declan, and Padraig.

“Their strength fuels my commitment, and together, we’ve achieved positive change, turning our personal challenges into such a positive. I’m grateful for the experience at Ulster University so far, and to the lecturers for all their support.”

University Provost Cathy Gormley-Heenan presents the Ulster University's Convocation Postgraduate Student of the Year award to Máirtín Mac Gabhann. Picture by Mal McCann (Mal McCann)

Mr MacGabhann used his expertise in PR and communications for the campaign Donate4Daithi to raise awareness about organ donation.

He completed the taught elements of a Masters while juggling the campaign, caring for his son and raising a family.

It is the latest recognition for the family, with Daithi having been granted the freedom of Belfast and the Prime Minister’s Point of Light award.