Parties unite behind call to bring 'Billy's Law' to NI
The mother of 13-year-old Billy Caldwell is planning to meet health officials to try and bring Northern Ireland in line with UK law regarding the use of medicinal cannabis.
Charlotte Caldwell has received cross-party support for her campaign to help Billy, who suffers from severe epilepsy.
Ms Caldwell says that cannabis oil helps to control her son's seizures.
Yesterday at Stormont, the Co Tyrone woman, flanked by politicians from across the political spectrum, outlined her plan to bring 'Billy's Law' to Northern Ireland.
"It was a fantastic meeting, fully supported by all of our political parties here in Northern Ireland," she said.
"I'm feeling very, very proud and blessed today. It just shows that the support within NI, the will is here for this to move forward and for Billy's Law to be implemented in Northern Ireland when it's implemented in the UK."
Families in Northern Ireland must apply for licences in order to obtain the drug, while those in England, Scotland and Wales can have it prescribed by specialist doctors.
"We're now writing to the Home Secretary, to say that when the law changes, it should be changed here."
In June, Ms Caldwell had cannabis oil confiscated by customs officers at Heathrow airport after a flight from Canada where she sourced the drug.
Last month, the Belfast Trust secured a licence allowing Billy to receive the drug at the Royal Victoria Hospital and later at his home.
She added: "We will now put plans in place to arrange meetings, to change the way of thinking within the NHS in Northern Ireland. We'll be requesting a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for Health in Northern Ireland and our chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride and we'll also be putting in place a meeting with the chief executive of the Belfast Trust, Martin Dillon."
Ms Caldwell said that she did not think the absence of a Stormont executive hampered her campaign.
"I don't see it as a frustration," she said.
"At the end of the day, our politicians here, as do all politicians, need a little education of medicinal cannabis. We're all learning together.
"What we have to remember is, those in our political parties are all mummies, they're all daddies, they're all uncles, they're all aunties, grannies and grandas.
"They're just ordinary people and they also have people within their families that are sick and know that maybe their family members that are sick could benefit from medicinal cannabis."
The SDLP, DUP, Sinn Fein, Green Party, UUP, Alliance and People Before Profit are backing the law's implementation.
UUP leader Robin Swann said he did not want to make political points over Ms Caldwell's campaign.
"I think this is a prime example of why we need Northern Ireland politicians making decisions for Northern Ireland people," he said.
"It's unfortunate that this is where we're at now, but I don't want to make this an attack on not forming an executive."
He said the issue could be worked on now.
"This is something we're united on and I don't want to bring division into this by political point scoring.
"I think it's important that we concentrate on taking the steps that all parties have agreed on today."