President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to both deceased and living organ donors at a service of remembrance and thanksgiving organised by the Irish Kidney Association.
The Association's 35th annual service took place today, as around 4,000 people in Ireland currently enjoy an extended life due to an organ transplant.
President Higgins, who is a patron of the Irish Kidney Association, encouraged the Irish public to open a conversation about the “gift of life” given by organ donors.
“In the more than half a century since the first kidney transplant took place in Ireland, that most precious gift, of life and living, has been offered to thousands of our citizens,” President Higgins said.
All of you have enriched and extended the lives of others
“This life saving, or life changing, gift is made possible through a generosity of human nature so worthy of recognition.”
Speaking to those attending the service, the President said: “Some of you with us today may have made this gift at a time of great personal tragedy. Others amongst you are living donors who have selflessly donated a kidney to a friend, family member or stranger in need.
“All of you have enriched and extended the lives of others.”
President Higgins said there are currently around 500 patients awaiting life-saving transplants in Ireland, while “too many” people continue to die each year while waiting on a donation.
“Discussion around organ donation is, of course, and will always be, a very sensitive and emotional one, tied up as it is with thoughts of loss and bereavement,” he said.
“It can also, however, be a conversation of hope and renewal, on commitment and the intangible joy of giving, of life continuing, and of the wonderful legacy it constitutes, one that we can leave behind by donating our organs to others.”
The inter-denominational service was held virtually for the first time due to Covid-19 restrictions and broadcast on RTÉ One.
The service saw a roll of honour inscribed with the names of organ and tissue donors at Newman University Church in Dublin.
Sergeant Paul Gifford, from Clondalkin Co Dublin, carried the cross to the altar after undergoing a kidney transplant from a deceased donor 17 years ago.
Alan Finnegan delivered a testimony about the profound impact of the organ donation of his late brother Paul, who passed away in 2014 after he famously prepared a meal for Michelle Obama and her daughters when they visited the family pub in Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Senator David Norris, who has also previously undergone a liver transplant, recited Seamus Heaney’s poem The Miracle.
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or by free texting the word DONOR to 50050.
Your wish to be an organ donor can also be included on the new format driving licence, which is indicated on the back of the card by code 115.