Justice Minister announces vital funding for voluntary search and rescue groups

Date published: 05 August 2020

Justice Minister Naomi Long has announced £100,000 funding for voluntary Search and Rescue groups in Northern Ireland.

Members of the northern ireland search and rescue team

The voluntary search and rescue groups deliver assistance to the emergency services and directly to the community. They provide lifesaving search and rescue on inland waterways, mountains and caves. They also provide a specialist search dog facility and support civil aviation with a sky watch service.

Naomi Long said: “This vital funding will assist the voluntary search and rescue teams and their dedicated highly trained volunteers, to continue with their lifesaving response.

 “I recognise and fully appreciate the contribution made by the voluntary search and rescue groups in supporting PSNI and Maritime and Coastguard Agency in responding to those in need of assistance.  I am pleased to confirm the 2020/21 funding which supports and assists organisations and their volunteers by enabling them to purchase much needed safety equipment or help towards the cost of transport and training.   I want to acknowledge the continued commitment of the voluntary search and rescue organisations during the current COVID-19 crisis.”

Minister Long also acknowledged the generosity of the public in providing support to the search and rescue sector: “Throughout Northern Ireland the public generously supports search and rescue groups, these donations also help fund much needed equipment or support.  Without such donations and support these groups would not be as well equipped to assist those who need it most.” 

This £100,000 resource funding is an increase of approximately £15,000 from the funding available in 2019/20.

To learn more about NI Search and Rescue and the North West Mountain Rescue Team click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFg0-wmEquE

Notes to editors: 

1.The Department of Justice co-ordinates the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue Practitioners’ Group which brings together the nine independent voluntary search and rescue groups, local RNLI and Coastguard teams, and members of their statutory partners.  This provides a forum for groups to come together to share experiences and best practice.  Further information can be found on the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue webpage at https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/articles/northern-ireland-search-and-rescue

2. Formed in 1980, the North West Mountain Rescue Team operate throughout Northern Ireland from bases in Enniskillen, Magherafelt and Ballymena and are primarily tasked in the rescue of  individual walkers, walking groups and those who become trapped by severe winter weather. They have currently 54 trained volunteers who skills ranging from medical assistance, search, recovery, technical rope work and incident control. During 2019/20 the team was involved in 23 rescue incidents mainly in the Belfast Hills.

3. The table below details the resource funding allocated to eight of the nine voluntary search and rescue groups.



Community Rescue Service


Irish Cave Rescue Organisation


Lagan Search and Rescue


Lough Neagh Rescue


Mourne Mountain Rescue Team


North West Mountain Rescue Team


Search and Rescue Dog Association IN


Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol NI






4. The Department of Justice assumed responsibility for the allocation of available funding from 1 April 2015.  In 2020/21 £101k of resource funding was allocated to the voluntary search and rescue groups. This year sees a £15k increase in that funding from 2019/20.

5. Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office, 028 9052 6444.

6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top