The Galway Mountain Rescue Team faces extinction as it is set to lose its vehicle base at UHG and the ending of the Government funding scheme to pay insurance costs.
The alarming news was conveyed to members of the GMRT recently and has led to calls from Galway politicians for funding and a new base for the organisation, including a new base to be located at Leisureland, Lough Rusheen Park, or the former Galway Airport.
The base at UHG has allowed the GMRT a parking facility for its vehicles and a location from which it can respond to Garda requests to assist people injured or lost on the county’s hills and mountains. The base is also used to store equipment and train its 34 volunteers who give of their services all-year-round, seven days a week.
However construction work is due to take place at the site of the base, meaning the facility will no longer be available and there is no alternative location at present.
“With no location to assemble and depart from, this degrades the potential of our emergency response,” said a spokesperson for the GMRT. “Simply put, a team base is needed.”
The cost of such a base is estimated to be €50,000. The GMRT is now calling on members, supporters, and the public to contact and lobby city and county councillors to pledge funding for the GMRT in the upcoming local authority budgets. To support its case the team cites the conclusion of a 2012 report on the GMRT by the umbrella body, Mountain Rescue Ireland:
“The lack of a base facility with sufficient space to store, inspect, dry and maintain rescue equipment and to properly house team vehicles is a serious impediment in providing a safe and efficient rescue service. A dedicated rescue base is a pressing requirement, which impacts across a range of sectors including giving necessary assistance to visitors in Connemara and the national park and supporting an adequate wilderness emergency response generally.”
Support for a new base has come from Reform Alliance senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, who is calling on the Minister for Transport Leo Vradkar to liaise with the Galway city and county councils, on this issue.
Sinn Féin’s Galway City West candidate Cathal Ó Conchúir is calling for “all political groups in Galway” to secure funding and basic infrastructure so the GMRT “may continue its Trojan work across the county”.
Mr Ó Conchúir is calling on the Galway City Council to look at providing facilities on a permanent basis at Leisureland or Lough Rusheen Park, alternatively at Galway Airport.
“It would be ideal if Galway Mountain Rescue could be housed on the western side of the city as most of the upland areas are on the western side of the county,” he said. “However an immediate solution would be to house GMRT at the former Galway Airport facility where there are plenty of empty buildings which might be used as a facility for Galway Mountain Rescue.”