A new £2million Covid scheme to help support vital search and rescue teams across Northern Ireland has been announced today by DAERA Minister Edwin Poots.
He told the Assembly that the funding will help the nine Northern Ireland Search And Rescue (NISAR) teams, who rescue some 500 people each year, to purchase essential life-saving equipment.
“I’m delighted to announce this new £2million funding scheme to support the vital work these groups do, 365 days a year, to save lives,” Minister Poots said.
“They are staffed by community volunteers who give up their own free time to help members of the public and tourists alike who get into difficulties in our countryside and waterways.
“I have met with some of these men and women before and have always been greatly impressed by their dedication and professionalism. They ensure that our rural open spaces and waterways are safe to use and this in turn helps drive visitor numbers and tourism in our rural areas.”
The Minister recently visited Hillsborough Forest Park, where he met with the Lagan Search and Rescue team to hand over a grant of almost £264K to provide PPE equipment and vehicles including a 4x4 response vehicles, minibus and a rigid inflatable rescue boat.
Noel Keenan from Lagan Search and Rescue, said: “This vital funding from Minister Poots is a tremendous boost to the service we offer and will allow us to effectively respond to emergencies throughout Northern Ireland.
“It will also enable us to maintain an effective lifeboat response for all users of the River Lagan, Belfast Lough and surrounding communities. Without such support it would be hard for us to maintain our current service.”
Lagan Search and Rescue have over 31 volunteers and operates two lifeboats primarily on the River Lagan. Last year they helped in 26 rescue incidents which included people threatening entry to the water.
Minister Poots added: “To say that their work is challenging and diverse is an understatement. It can range from helping someone who has taken ill or sustained an injury while out walking, to helping someone experiencing difficulties in the water or recovering the body of a loved one.
“During the pandemic, we have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of visitors to our rural areas and these are vital services contribute to creating a safe and attractive rural environment supporting and encouraging rural development.
“The services provided by these organisations are absolutely vital and I sincerely hope that this funding goes some way to help ensure the safety of those who put their lives on the line to protect ours,” concluded Minister Poots.