Northern Ireland news

Dáithí Mac Gabhann to receive Freedom of Belfast

Dáithí Mac Gabhann is set to receive the Freedom of Belfast. The west Belfast youngster is pictured with Belfast lord mayor Tina Black. Picture by Mal McCann

A six-year-old boy from west Belfast who led a successful campaign to reform Northern Ireland’s organ donation law is set to receive the freedom of the city.

Dáithí Mac Gabhann, from Ballymurphy, has been waiting for a transplant for most of his life after he was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Dáithí and his parents, Máirtín and Seph have campaigned tirelessly for an opt-out organ donation system in the north, which would mean all adults became potential donors unless they specifically opt out.

Just weeks ago, there were celebrations when Dáithí’s Law was passed at Westminster. It is due to come into effect in June.

Now, an accolade has been put forward by Belfast City Council's strategic policy and resources committee proposing the young boy receives the freedom of the city.

The decision is expected to be ratified when the full council holds its monthly meeting next Monday.

It is thought that the official ceremony could then take place in June.

A council spokesman said the move is still "subject to ratification" and further details would be announced in due course.

Last year, health workers in Belfast who helped during the Covid pandemic received the award.

Previous to that, in 2018, the freedom of the city was granted to President Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell for their efforts in the peace process.

Dáithí's father Máirtín Mac Gabhann said he is "immensely proud" of his son.

"I hope that if Dáithí receives this award that it will encourage more people to register their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and to share that decision with their families," he said.

"Dáithí has shown that even at such a young age, he can make a huge difference in the world and help save lives.

"He is my hero, and I love him with all my heart."

The news comes just weeks after Dáithí and his family received hate mail in the post.

Police said they are treating the anonymous, handwritten letter, which contained “sectarian remarks”, as a hate incident. The letter was sent to the family’s home.

The MacGabhann family described the letter as "hateful".

In a statement, they said: "We are extremely disappointed to receive a hateful handwritten anonymous letter in the post today.

"Our family and campaign will not tolerate such behaviour and if it continues, further action will be taken”.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The letter contained sectarian remarks and is being dealt with as a hate incident.

"The recipients of the letter have received appropriate advice from local police."

Northern Ireland news