Belfast Telegraph

Life-saving organ donation Bill is above politics, says unionist standing by Joe Brolly in GAA club name row

BY CLAIRE GRAHAM

Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson has vowed to stand side by side with GAA pundit Joe Brolly after he defended his home club being named after a republican hunger striker.

Despite his remarks, the pair will present a public consultation on organ donation in the Assembly tomorrow under the invitation of the UUP MLA.

The Upper Bann representative said she didn't share the same views as Mr Brolly, but the issue of organ donation was "above politics".

Their campaign to shake up the legislation on organ donation would see a change from an opt-in to an opt-out process.

"I've invited Joe to present the consultation with me on Wednesday," she said.

"I know what he did for Shane (Finnegan) and I have the greatest respect for him.

"Our relationship transcends politics with the common goal of changing lives."

The crusade led by the MLA is backed by the pundit, who donated his kidney to help his friend Mr Finnegan, a GAA coach to his children at St Bride's in Belfast.

The former all-Ireland winner will join medical professionals and representatives from charities to present the evidence session on the proposed Organ Donation Bill to Stormont's health committee.

Mr Brolly came under fire last week after he said "it's nobody else's business" that his home town club in Dungiven, Co Londonderry, is named after INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch, who played for the club.

Three out of 560 GAA sports grounds and one GAA club out of 584 in Ulster takes its name from those involved in the conflict.

The issue has been brewing for months with victims' groups now requesting meetings with the GAA. Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) said it is writing to ask for a meeting with the central body of the GAA to discuss "the naming of sports grounds and tournaments after republican terrorists and how this is viewed by victims". "This is not about attacking the GAA, it's about moving forward to reconcile difficult issues of the past and preventing the next generation of young people growing up to view these people as martyrs or heroes.

"There should be consistency across the divide on the legacy that has been left by challenging name places causing pain for others."

Ms Dobson said: "Aside from our differences of opinion, Joe is a passionate campaigner and he's been there championing this Bill since the beginning."

The public consultation on organ donation exceeded "all expectations" with a response of more than 1,300 over a 16-week period, said Ms Dobson. "The response has been super and shows the importance of the issues we are dealing with."

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