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Funding boost for voluntary rescue services

Seven voluntary search and rescue services – including the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team – are to have their funding doubled for the coming financial year ahead.

But Justice Minister David Ford, in making the announcement today (Friday), said all will still need the support of local communities to help them function.

An £18,000 allocation has been made to the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, as Minister Ford revealed the increase in Executive funding available to these voluntary organisations.

The funding available has now doubled for all of these search and rescue services, from the £46,000 previously available.

It will assist the seven voluntary organisations within the Northern Ireland Practitioners Group who bid for funding to allow them to continue their work.

Mr Ford said: “Search and rescue services play a significant, potentially life-saving role each year across Northern Ireland.

“I want to thank all the voluntary groups for the important work that they undertake. The commitment and dedication shown by volunteers 365 days a year is vital in supporting the work of the statutory agencies.

“I am impressed at the strong level of partnership and cooperation.

“I am, therefore, pleased to announce that my Department will double the overall funding, to over £90,000, to help these organisations continue their work.

“While the financial contribution that I have announced today will go some way to assisting these teams they will continue to need the support of the wider community in their fundraising activities.”

The Department of Justice assumed policy responsibility for land and inland water search and rescue (SAR) in Northern Ireland in 2011. To ensure the over-arching SAR framework for Northern Ireland was appropriately governed and structured, the Department launched a strategic review. It was completed in May 2014 when the Steering Group signed off the review report and recommendations.

The review focused on the strategic aspects of search and rescue and made recommendations on structures to support search and rescue bodies in Northern Ireland.

One of the recommendations was that available Northern Ireland Executive funding should be accessible to all the Northern Ireland SAR voluntary organisations represented on the NISAR Practitioners Group.

The Department has now assumed responsibility for the allocation of available funding. It sought bids from all the nine groups on the Search and Rescue Practitioners Group.

Seven applied and have been allocated funding as follows:

Skywatch, £1,280
Irish Cave Rescue Organisation, £11,682.50
North West Mountain Rescue Team, £25,000
Lough Neagh, £4,560
Foyle Rescue, £3,108
Search and Rescue Dogs Association, £10,480
Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, £18,000.

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