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Long applauds life-saving efforts of search and rescue volunteers


Justice Minister Naomi Long is pictured with Simon Hutchinson, chairman of NI Search and Rescue (NISAR) and volunteers of the Sky Watch NI and Lagan Search and Rescue groups.

Justice Minister Naomi Long has paid tribute to the dedicated lifesaving efforts of the many volunteers of Northern Ireland Search and Rescue (NISAR). The Minister was announcing £100,000 funding for the nine voluntary groups that provide assistance to emergency services in search and rescue on inland waterways, mountains and caves. A specialist search dogs unit and sky watch aviation facility are also among the services deployed in rescue operations.

Justice Minister Naomi Long is pictured with Simon Hutchinson, chairman of NI Search and Rescue (NISAR), Paul Trimble (left) from Sky Watch NI and Noel Keenan (right) from Lagan Search and Rescue, during a training exercise on Belfast Lough.

Speaking after watching a demonstration by Sky Watch NI and Lagan Search and Rescue, Naomi Long said:


“Across Northern Ireland there are more than 500 volunteers working with the various search and rescue groups. These are men and women of all ages who give freely of their time to learn expert search and rescue life-saving skills. “The visit today, during National Volunteers’ Week 2021, has allowed me to see first-hand the volunteers during a demonstration, but it is also an opportunity for me to thank them for their commitment and dedication to the work that the do. “I am very aware of the challenges faced by many voluntary groups and their volunteers. Covid-19 restrictions have no doubt impacted on the ability of the NISAR groups to generate funds through collections and publicly arranged events, which I know they each depend on. Funding is vital for these lifesaving services, and for this reason I am delighted that my Department is able to provide financial support to the NISAR groups which will help towards the purchase of much needed protective clothing, equipment and other running costs incurred by the groups.”



Sky Watch volunteer Chris Dugan demonstrates the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Justice Minister Naomi Long during a training exercise on Belfast Lough.

During the training exercise by Sky Watch NI and Lagan Search and Rescue in Belfast Lough, volunteers enacted a rescue from the water and victim recovery. Lagan Search and Rescue, with over 45 volunteers, operate three lifeboats primarily on the River Lagan, and in the past year have been involved in 27 rescue incidents which included people threatening entry to the water. Noel Keenan from Lagan Search and Rescue, said: “The financial support we receive from the Department of Justice helps with our considerable running costs including fuel, insurance and volunteer training. Without it and support from our other funders, we would struggle to maintain the level of service which we currently provide.” With a specialist team of 18 volunteers, Sky Watch NI work with all of Northern Ireland’s blue-light agencies carrying out air and water searches. They recently purchased a new Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which is used to carry out optical and Sonar searches and assist in drowned victim recovery. Paul Trimble from Sky Watch NI said: “The funding from the Department of Justice to purchase the underwater ROV has enabled us to develop and expand our skills in search into water environments.” Watch the video below to find out more about how the Department of Justice is supporting NI Search and Rescue.




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