Vital funding for voluntary search and rescue groups including North West Mountain Rescue Team which has a base in Ballymena

North West Mountain Rescue Team (NWMRT), pictured with Simon Hutchinson, Chair of the NI Search and Rescue Practitioners Group, are one of nine voluntary search and rescue groups across Northern Ireland to share in £100,000 funding from the Department of Justice. The money will assist in the purchase of much needed safety equipment as well as volunteer transport and training costs. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Justice Minister Naomi Long has announced £100,000 funding for voluntary Search and Rescue groups in Northern Ireland including North West Mountain Rescue Team which has a base in Ballymena.

The voluntary search and rescue groups deliver assistance to the emergency services and directly to the community.

They provide lifesaving search and rescue on inland waterways, mountains and caves. They also provide a specialist search dog facility and support civil aviation with a sky watch service.

Naomi Long said: “This vital funding will assist the voluntary search and rescue teams and their dedicated highly trained volunteers, to continue with their lifesaving response.

“I recognise and fully appreciate the contribution made by the voluntary search and rescue groups in supporting PSNI and Maritime and Coastguard Agency in responding to those in need of assistance.

“I am pleased to confirm the 2020/21 funding which supports and assists organisations and their volunteers by enabling them to purchase much needed safety equipment or help towards the cost of transport and training.

“I want to acknowledge the continued commitment of the voluntary search and rescue organisations during the current Covid-19 crisis.”

Minister Long also acknowledged the generosity of the public in providing support to the search and rescue sector: “Throughout Northern Ireland the public generously supports search and rescue groups, these donations also help fund much needed equipment or support.

“Without such donations and support these groups would not be as well equipped to assist those who need it most.”

This £100,000 resource funding is an increase of approximately £15,000 from the funding available in 2019/20.

The Department of Justice co-ordinates the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue Practitioners’ Group which brings together the nine independent voluntary search and rescue groups, local RNLI and Coastguard teams, and members of their statutory partners.

This provides a forum for groups to come together to share experiences and best practice. Further information can be found on the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue webpage at https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/articles/northern-ireland-search-and-rescue

Formed in 1980, the North West Mountain Rescue Team operate throughout Northern Ireland from bases in Enniskillen, Magherafelt and Ballymena and are primarily tasked in the rescue of individual walkers, walking groups and those who become trapped by severe winter weather.

They have currently 54 trained volunteers who skills ranging from medical assistance, search, recovery, technical rope work and incident control. During 2019/20 the team was involved in 23 rescue incidents mainly in the Belfast Hills.

The table below details the resource funding allocated to eight of the nine voluntary search and rescue groups.

  • Community Rescue Service – £21,000
  • Irish Cave Rescue Organisation – £9,250
  • Lagan Search and Rescue – £19,200
  • Lough Neagh Rescue – £5,700
  • Mourne Mountain Rescue Team – £12,400
  • North West Mountain Rescue Team – £18,500
  • Search and Rescue Dog Association – £9,050
  • Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol NI – £6,000

To learn more about NI Search and Rescue and the North West Mountain Rescue Team, access the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFg0-wmEquE

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