LISTEN - First Minister gives ‘approval’ for new organ donation legislation to proceed

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First Minister Paul Givan

Q Radio News/PA

Northern Ireland’s First Minister has given “approval” to new legislation around organ donation.

Paul Givan said he has given the go-ahead to the Health Minister’s soft opt-out organ donation bill to proceed by way of urgent procedure to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In a post on Twitter on Thursday evening, Mr Givan said: “I have given approval for legislation from @RobinSwannMoH on Soft Opt-Out Organ Donation to proceed by way of urgent procedure to the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

Mr Givan has been speaking to Q Radio following the update:

Robin Swann’s bill would mean people automatically became donors unless they specifically say otherwise.

The move has also been welcomed by the Donate4Dáithí campaign and Fearghal McKinney of the British Heart Foundation.

Head of British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland Fearghal McKinney said:

“We very much welcome the decision by the First and deputy First Minister to sign off this draft legislation to allow it to progress to the floor of the Assembly. Our elected representatives will now have the opportunity to consider, scrutinise and debate the issue. But we must not get complacent, this is just the start of the process. This Assembly’s mandate will run out next year and we have no time to waste.

“One person’s decision to donate their organs is a gift that can save and improve the lives of up to nine other people. We believe a change in the legislation, along with a strengthened health system and a public information campaign will lead to more people receiving the gift of a donated organ.

“We look forward to engaging with our elected representatives on soft opt-out organ donation in the year ahead.”

Dáithí MacGabhann from West Belfast was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which essentially means he only has half a working heart. The four-year-old has been waiting for the gift of a new heart for almost three years. His parents Máirtín and Seph and their families have been leading campaigners for a change in the law here. 

 Máirtín said: 

“It has been a rollercoaster of emotions kind of week, but we are now absolutely delighted. We welcome Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill approving Minister Swann’s urgent procedure to move this very important topic on to the Assembly floor and to allow the democratic process to begin.

“The correct decision has been made and we now look forward to the debate from our elected representatives and scrutiny from the health committee and experts. Although this decision feels like a victory, time for this mandate is still running out and we can not afford any more delays.”

Northern Ireland remains the last part of the UK without a soft opt-out system.

Under current law, organ donation proceeds only where someone has given their express consent, such as having signed the Organ Donor Register.

Mr Swann said he was “pleased” to confirm his organ donation bill has been signed off for urgent procedure and will go to the Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker on Friday.

He tweeted: “Have just spoken with both @paulgivan & @moneillsf, pleased to say that our soft opt-out organ donation bill has been signed off for an urgent procedure, so will now go to the @niassembly Speaker tomorrow.”

The decision comes after Mr Swann accused the DUP of blocking new legislation around organ donation.

Mr Swann voiced frustration at the blockage to the legislation on Thursday when it was again not approved by the Stormont Executive.

He said that if it is not approved soon there will not be enough time left in this Assembly mandate for it to become law.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill is paying tribute to campaigners:

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