Government moves to introduce NI organ donation law at Westminster

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The Government has moved to pass a stalled organ donation law for Northern Ireland at Westminster.

The political impasse at Stormont means local Assembly members have been unable to convene to pass the regulations required to implement to the opt-out donation system in the region.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said he would table an amendment to scheduled legislation going through Parliament that would incorporate the organ law.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris (Liam McBurney/PA).

Mr Heaton-Harris said the Government intervention was “exceptional” and insisted local politicians should be taking such decisions.

“I have been incredibly moved by Daithi’s story and his family’s dedication,” he said.

“I know that the party leaders in Northern Ireland feel the same.

“In recognition of just how important this issue is, I have decided to bring forward an amendment to the Executive Formation Bill which will allow for the overdue legislation to be made by the NI Department of Health and see this change to the law become a reality.

“I would like to reiterate that, if the amendment is selected, the UK Government’s intervention here is exceptional.

“Decisions such as these should be being taken by locally-elected decision-makers.

“I urge the parties to take the necessary steps to tackle all the other vitally important measures, just like this one, that they could deliver in Northern Ireland by simply agreeing to restore the institutions.”

Daithi MacGabhann’s father Mairtin said the family was elated by the move.

“It has been an incredibly hard few weeks, you know, with everything and Daithi’s Law and Daithi being in hospital and to get a phone call late last night from Chris Heaton-Harris, he said it was exceptional and it is exceptional and our Daithi is exceptional.

“So we’re just elated to be honest. We can’t really believe it.”

He added: “It was just an incredible phone call. I think he probably has a sore ear this morning because I shouted down the phone at him. If he didn’t hear it down the phone he probably heard it from Belfast if he’s in London, it was that loud.”

Mr MacGabhann said he was filled with pride for his son.

“He’s six years old and he’s cemented a legacy already,” he said.

“I’m just so proud to be his daddy.”

Last week a bid to restore the Assembly to pass the law failed when the DUP once again exercised its veto to prevent the election of a speaker, meaning no further business could be conducted.

The region’s main unionist party is boycotting the powersharing institutions in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Assembly recalled to Stormont
Six-year-old Daithi MacGabhann with his parents Mairtin Mac Gabhann (left) and Seph Ni Mheallain at Parliament Buildings at Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

The DUP insisted said the regulations required to implement the opt-out donation system could instead be passed at Westminster in the continued absence of powersharing in Belfast.

The party says it will not return to operating devolution until decisive action is taken to remove the protocol’s economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Negotiations between the UK Government and the EU to resolve differences over the protocol are continuing amid speculation a deal could be imminent.

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

The opt-out system would mean adults in Northern Ireland would be presumed to be donors, unless they take a decision to opt out. It is being implemented to increase donation rates in the region.

The DUP planned to introduce an amendment to the Government’s Executive Formation Bill to facilitate the passing of the regulations.

However, Mr Heaton-Harris has announced the Government will now table its own amendment when the Bill is brought before the Commons on Wednesday.

The Bill deals with the legislation required to extend a deadline for holding a fresh Assembly election in Northern Ireland.

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