Northern Ireland news

Fastest way to pass Daithi's Law is at Westminster, says Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

DUP health spokesperson Paul Givan (left) and party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (right) with six-year-old Daithi MacGabhann and his father Mairtin (DUP/PA)
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The fastest way to pass new organ donation laws in Northern Ireland is at Westminster, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader was speaking on Friday after a meeting with six-year-old Daithi MacGabhann and his father Mairtin.

Sir Jeffrey said he would work with other parties at Westminster to progress legislation delayed by the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.

The opt-out donation system was passed by MLAs last year, but the secondary legislation required to implement it cannot be approved at Stormont due to the political stalemate.

The legislation was due to be named Daithi's Law, after the Belfast boy who is waiting for a heart transplant.

Sir Jeffrey said: “I think that it is entirely possible for the UK parliament to resolve this issue.

“When I met with Mairtin and Daithi this morning we had a really constructive conversation.

“I was able to reassure him of our commitment to ensure that the second part of this legislation is delivered as quickly as possible.

“Right now the quickest way to do that is at Westminster. Therefore we will work with the other parties to ensure that we get that legislation through Westminster.

“That is my commitment to Daithi and to everyone else in Northern Ireland who is waiting for organ donation.”

He added: “Next Wednesday marks one year since the Assembly passed the final stage of Daithi's Law. It was a significant piece of legislation not just for Daithi and his family, but for all those across Northern Ireland who are waiting on a transplant.

“There was cross-party agreement in moving to the ‘opt-out' system and there is similar unity in support of the further necessary legislation being brought to Parliament.

“It is important that all options are on the table, but the need for progress to be made quickly is vital.

“It is welcome that the Secretary of State is exploring all possible avenues, and whilst a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons also remains a possibility, this would not be the ideal route.”

The MacGabhann family met with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, earlier this week, where they were told it would take too long for the Government to intervene and pass the laws at Westminster.

Mr Heaton-Harris said he had asked officials to explore possible avenues to implement the organ donation laws in the region in the absence of the powersharing institutions.

Last month, the five largest parties wrote to Mr Heaton-Harris urging him to intervene to implement the new organ donation law at Westminster.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said he shared the family's “deep disappointment” and “frustration” that the legislation may not be fully implemented by the spring as planned.

Northern Ireland news