Editorial: DUP must allow Dáithí's Law to pass at Stormont

THOUGH inevitable, the secretary of state's decision to push back yet another Assembly election deadline was still met with a mixture of frustration and resignation.

Frustration, because those MLAs willing to go to work are being prevented from doing so through the stubborn refusal of one party – the DUP, trapped in an anti-protocol cul-de-sac of its own making – to allow the election of a speaker; and resignation, because there is no reason to believe a fresh election in the coming weeks would have changed the gloomy mood at Stormont.

In setting a new January 18 2024 deadline – though the term has become essentially meaningless – for the formation of a new Executive, Chris Heaton-Harris says he hopes the "NI parties" will be able to find the time and space to "work together to return to government".

This is perhaps more than a little disingenuous given the only party blocking the return of power-sharing is the DUP. It is 12 months since Paul Givan resigned as first minister, a move which collapsed the Executive, and since then the DUP has escalated its campaign by refusing to allow MLAs to elect a speaker.

Government at Stormont was dysfunctional long before then, and the latest stalemate has added to the sense of drift. Kicking the can even further down the road only amplifies that, which is a poor legacy for the Good Friday Agreement as it approaches its 25th anniversary.

While our politicians should be getting on with making decisions in areas such as health, education and infrastructure, there are other tangible ways in which the DUP, by putting the protocol before people, is harming the lives of citizens.

Opt-out organ donation legislation – known as Dáithí's Law, after six-year-old west Belfast boy Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who desperately needs a heart transplant – is one of the casualties of the Stormont collapse.

The most straightforward way to progress this much-needed law is for MLAs to elect a speaker and pass the necessary legislation – something Mr Heaton-Harris says would not require the nomination of a first and deputy first minister, and which could be done in one sitting. Sinn Féin has submitted a recall petition, appealing for the assembly to do its job.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has, however, insisted that the law could be passed at Westminster – an absurd situation in which he is essentially appealing for the secretary of state to help the DUP avoid the consequences of its own boycott.