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Sports hero inspired opt-out plan

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Joe Brolly, left, donated a kidney to fellow GAA enthusiast Shane Finnegan

Joe Brolly, left, donated a kidney to fellow GAA enthusiast Shane Finnegan

PA

Legislation could be introduced that assumes people are happy to donate their organs upon death unless they state otherwise

Legislation could be introduced that assumes people are happy to donate their organs upon death unless they state otherwise

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Joe Brolly, left, donated a kidney to fellow GAA enthusiast Shane Finnegan

A campaigning former sports star has been credited with generating the impetus that led to a new organ donation system being proposed for Northern Ireland.

Stormont's political leaders hailed the contribution of champion Gaelic footballer Joe Brolly as they outlined plans for the introduction of a presumed consent model in the region.

Brolly, now a successful barrister in Belfast, made headlines across Ireland last year when he donated one of his kidneys to a fellow volunteer children's coach at his local GAA club.

The transplant operation on PR executive Shane Finnegan ultimately failed when the organ stopped working but since then Brolly has become a vocal campaigner on the issue.

The 1993 All-Ireland-winning footballer's story has focused on the need for live donors and on the sensitive topic of whether someone donates after their death.

At present people in Northern Ireland are required to sign on to the organ donor register to make their intentions clear.

Under the opt-out system proposed by Health Minister Edwin Poots, consent would be presumed unless stated otherwise.

Countries that have adopted the model, such as Spain, have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of donor organs becoming available.

Mr Poots is advocating a so-called "soft" opt-out system in Northern Ireland, which would give bereaved families the ability to stop any donations taking place.

The minister was joined at Belfast City Hospital by Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to announce the plan.