Poots donates £2m to vital search and rescue services


He told the Assembly that the funding will help Northern Ireland’s nine search and rescue teams (NISAR), which rescue some 500 people every year, buy essential life-saving equipment.

“I am delighted to announce this new £2 million funding program to support the vital work these groups do, 365 days a year, to save lives,” said Minister Poots.

“They are staffed by community volunteers who dedicate their free time to helping members of the public and tourists who encounter difficulties in our countryside and waterways.

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Lagan Search and Rescue volunteer John Russell and DAERA Minister Edwin Poots on the lake in Hillsborough Forest Park.

“I have met some of these men and women before and have always been very impressed with their dedication and professionalism. They ensure that our rural open spaces and waterways are safe to use, which in turn helps increase visitor numbers and tourism in our rural areas.

The Minister recently visited Hillsborough Forest Park where he met the Lagan Search and Rescue team to hand over a grant of nearly £264,000 to provide PPE equipment and vehicles including a response vehicle 4×4, a minibus and a rigid inflatable rescue boat.

Noel Keenan of Lagan Search and Rescue said: “This vital funding from Minister Poots is a tremendous boost to the service we provide and will enable us to respond effectively to emergencies across Northern Ireland.

“It will also allow 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 difficult for us to maintain our current service.

Lagan Search and Rescue has over 31 volunteers and operates two lifeboats primarily on the Lagan River. Last year, they were involved in 26 rescue incidents, including people threatening to enter the water.

Minister Poots added, “To say their work is challenging and diverse is an understatement. It could be helping someone who has become ill or injured while walking, helping someone who has difficulty in the water, or recovering the body of a loved one.

“During the pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of visitors to our rural areas and these are vital services that help create a safe and attractive rural environment that supports and encourages rural development.

“The services provided by these organizations are absolutely vital and I sincerely hope that this funding will help ensure the safety of those who risk their lives to protect ours,” concluded Minister Poots.

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