Jim Allister today presented a petition with 81,000 signatures calling for a Northern Ireland Air Ambulance at Stormont. Supporters of the campaign joined Lisa Hemphill and Stephen Livingstone, the key organisers of the petition, at Parliament Buildings this morning.
Speaking in the chamber Mr Allister said:
“Seldom does the mere announcement of the presentation of a petition provoke a welcome ministerial response before the petition is even presented, but that is the happy situation today. So, the focus now of the petition is very much to secure the timely and full implementation of the commitments made to fill the deficit that exists in relation to emergency medical service in Northern Ireland, we being the only part of the United Kingdom without a fully equipped air ambulance service.
“Of course, presenting this petition in support of that call — a petition that has the backing in written form of 16,000 signatures and 65,000 online indications of support, a total of 81,000 — is tinged with sadness because the great champion of this cause, Dr John Hinds, sadly is no longer with us. It was Dr John’s vision and passion for the need to deliver a proper air ambulance service to Northern Ireland that started this campaign, invigorated it and which inspires those who have taken the trouble of gathering the petition to ensure that his legacy is secured in the provision of that for which he long campaigned.
“You could not meet Dr John without yourself being enthused with his passion and his tremendous knowledge on this subject. I know that, when I took him to see the Minister back in June, the Minister was well impressed with the infectious enthusiasm that he had for the subject. Of course, he was a man who, through his skill and expertise as a trauma specialist of great, considerable note, has saved the lives of many people.
“It is, I know, the lasting ambition of his family and loved ones that the cause that was so dear to his heart and which he espoused so strongly might reach fruition with the full provision of an air ambulance service. I have to say to the Minister that he has made the right start, but there needs to be fuller commitment than a mere £200,000 a year. The Department should show its bona fides by capital funding the acquisition and equipping of the helicopter. That would show an example to charitable organisations, which are more than willing to help in the continual running of the service. So, I trust that the Department will rise to the challenge and that this petition will encourage them to do that in a timely and expeditious manner.”