Belfast Telegraph

Organ donation campaigners Joe Brolly and Shane Finnegan launch transplant initiative

By Claire Graham

Joe Brolly is on a crusade to shake up the organ transplant system in Northern Ireland.

He is encouraging everybody to hop onto their bikes for the 'Life Cycle Challenge' on May 18th to raise awareness of proposed changes to the donation system in Northern Ireland.

Under new proposals put forward by Health Minister Edwin Poots in February, people would be presumed to have given consent for their organs to be donated upon their death, unless they have opted out

“This campaign is a no-brainer” the former GAA star and organ donation activist has said.

He has seen the huge difference organ transplants can make first hand, after donating his own kidney to friend Shane Finnegan last year.

“We believe that the majority of people in Northern Ireland see organ donation as having a positive impact on the hundreds of people who are suffering silently on waiting lists.”

The father of five donated his kidney to Shane, who has three children of his own, in October. The pair were left devastated when the PR executive's body rejected the organ. Mr Finnegan continues to go through dialysis each night.

Shane says this campaign has become their life.

“I go to work, I come home to do the campaign and then I do my dialysis. I don't have time to think.” He has been waiting six and a half years for a successful transplant.

Together they are passionate about changing the current membership and donation card system.

Belfast's Lord Mayor has said the personal sacrifice of Joe Brolly is a powerful message for the executive.

The final say for organ donation will still remain with the family of the deceased under the proposed legislation.

Brolly who won the All-Ireland Championship with Derry in 1993 says this will ensure organ donation “will remain a gift from one family to another.”

Taking part in the cycle includes Orla Smth (33). Her kidney transplant in 2007 has made her unstoppable on the athletics track. From running just one mile to Tesco six months after her second operation, Orla has gone on to hold the 400m 800m and 1500m records in the World Transplant Games.

She says she thinks about her organ donor family every day.

Both the First and deputy First Minister will be putting on their helmets to peddle the 30 mile route.

UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson who's own son, Mark had a kidney transplant in 2009 has put forward the Private Member's Bill.

The chairperson of the All-Party Group on Organ Donation says it's an issue “very close to her heart.” The first consultation will be in June and the issue will be debated in the chamber in Autumn this year.

She wants the change which is backed by all five parties in place before the end of this mandate.

To take part in the cycle head to

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