Northern Ireland

Dáithí's family may now consider legal action over stalled organ donation legislation

Daithi MacGabhan (6) and his family met with Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris at Hillsborough Castle to talk about Northern Ireland's stalled organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann
Daithi MacGabhan (6) and his family met with Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris at Hillsborough Castle to talk about Northern Ireland's stalled organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann Daithi MacGabhan (6) and his family met with Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris at Hillsborough Castle to talk about Northern Ireland's stalled organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann

THE father of a Belfast schoolboy who is waiting for a heart transplant has said the family may now consider legal action in a bid to get new organ donation laws for Northern Ireland implemented.

Mairtin MacGabhann, whose six-year-old son Dáithí was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, said he had been left "disappointed and angry" following a meeting with Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris about the stalled legislation which has been named Dáithí's Law.

The legislation, which received Royal Assent on March 30 last year, would bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

It would change the law to an opt-out system, meaning people would automatically become donors unless they request otherwise.

However, the Department of Health requires the passing of secondary legislation by the assembly and this cannot happen during suspension.

Mairtin MacGabhan said the family may now consider legal action over Northern Ireland's organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann
Mairtin MacGabhan said the family may now consider legal action over Northern Ireland's organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann Mairtin MacGabhan said the family may now consider legal action over Northern Ireland's organ donation legislation. Picture by Mal McCann

Last month, the leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties jointly wrote to Mr Heaton-Harris calling for an intervention to give effect to the soft-opt-out process.

Mairtin MacGabhann had also asked Mr Heaton Harris for a meeting, which took place at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday.

Speaking afterwards, the father-of-two said the family had been left "bitterly disappointed and, to be honest, I'm just so angry at the whole situation.

"We told the secretary of state that this is much bigger than Daithi's law - this is a beacon of hope for the organ donation and transplantation community here," he said.

"He did speak to us not just as a politician, he spoke to us as a family man as well.

"But our point was that there is no assembly and, without the assembly, this secondary legislation can't go through.

"He shared our frustrations with our politicians, but we already know that, we're already frustrated with our politicians, the whole place is frustrated with our politicians."

Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann.
Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann. Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann.

Mr MacGabhann said Mr Heaton-Harris had told the family it would take too long for the Government to intervene and pass the laws at Westminster.

"Daithi's Law deserves to have a go-live date in spring as planned but after the meeting today it looks like we're not getting that," he said.

He said the family would consider legal action to try to get the law introduced, adding that he felt his family are being used in a "political game of football".

"We were at the funeral of a young boy last week who died of the same condition as Daithi - time is not on our side, we don't have the time," he said.

Following the meeting with Dáithí's parents, Mr Heaton-Harris said: "We all hope to see this law implemented by the spring as planned and I share their frustration that the political impasse in Northern Ireland is causing unnecessary delays to life-saving legislation.

"The quickest and simplest way to resolve the issue is if the Northern Ireland parties urgently get back to the Executive and govern in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland."

Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann.
Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann. Little Daithi MacGabhan with his family as they leave Hillsborough Castle following a meeting with Secretary Of State Chris Heaton Harris. Picture Mal McCann.