Northern Ireland

DUP resists plan to pass Dáithí's Law with one-day assembly sitting

Dáithí Mac Gabhann after his heart operation at Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle. Picture from Twitter
Dáithí Mac Gabhann after his heart operation at Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle. Picture from Twitter

THE DUP was last night resisting pressure from its Stormont rivals to join the assembly in passing long-awaited organ donation legislation.

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris told the main parties that the quickest way to pass Daithí's Law was for the assembly to sit for a single day.

The move would require cross-community support to elect a speaker but without the need to nominate a first and deputy first minister.

MLAs passed the bill a year ago but secondary legislation needed to implement it cannot be approved because of the Stormont deadlock.

Sinn Féin responded by tabling a petition that could see the assembly sit next week to rubber stamp the legislation.

However, the DUP signalled that it would not be joining a recalled assembly until its concerns around the protocol were addressed.

The secretary of state's initiative came as Dáithí Mac Gabhann underwent heart surgery in England.

The six-year-old, who gave his name to the delayed legislation on organ donation opt-out, flew to by Air Ambulance to Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle earlier this week.

Dáithi has been waiting for a heart transplant since 2018, while his family have worked to secure a change in the law on organ donation.

The Donate4Dáithí Twitter account posted a picture of the west Belfast youngster post-operation with the caption: "Sitting up and ready to #FIGHT!"

Mr Heaton-Harris, who yesterday extended the deadline for calling a Stormont election until January next year, said an assembly recall would be the "quickest, most straightforward path to progressing this important legislation".

"Resuming business in the assembly would also demonstrate to voters in Northern Ireland that MLAs are ready to get back to work, to address the issues that people are facing and allow for greater debate and scrutiny," he said.

Sinn Féin First Minister-designate Michelle O'Neill said it was important to get the legislation "over the line"

"Little Dáithí, as we speak, is in hospital receiving treatment," she said.

"Of course, it is much bigger than little Dáithí, it is about anyone who is waiting for an organ transplant."

She said all the other bar the DUP were prepared to support an assembly recall.

But DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said the legislation could be passed at Westminster.

"It's because this Conservative government supported the Northern Ireland protocol, that it made it impossible to get back into the assembly and into the executive," he said.

"Now we have the Westminster government that is going to be taking through the new Executive Formation Bill."

The East Antrim MLA said Westminster had previously intervened "on issues such as abortion and victims' pensions".