17/02/2009

Mourne Mountain Rescue Accolade

The team credited with a dramatic mountain rescue operation last week in Co Wicklow is being honoured.

Northern Ireland Sports Minister Gregory Campbell will tonight host an event to acknowledge the contribution of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team to the Northern Ireland community.

Speaking ahead of the reception at Parliament Buildings, Minister Campbell said: "The team is being presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services which was awarded in 2008 for all of the work that they undertake in the community.

"It is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon groups of this kind and is equivalent in status to the MBE.

"I must commend the members of Mourne Mountain Rescue Team past and present for providing over 47 years of voluntary service to those that use the Mourne Mountains.

"Their dedication to providing a professional service and commitment to training and assisting others in need is exemplary."

The Minister continued: "I was pleased that Sport Northern Ireland has provided the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team with funding of £70,000 for the purchase of their new transit van and radios which have already been put to good use.
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"While many would argue that the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team are not a sporting team, their very existence and indeed the existence of other similar rescue and support teams, allows so many people from all over Northern Ireland and further afield, the opportunities to use the mountains for leisure and recreational purposes," he concluded.

'Further afield' last week meant the Mourne team joined forces with their colleagues on the NI-based North West Mountain Rescue team as back-up for the Irish Republic's volunteers who had launched searches on Monday for two snowboarders trapped on one of Ireland's highest mountains.

They were just hours from freezing to death when the Ulster rescuers located them and they were winched to safety by helicopter.

The men were stranded in sub-zero temperatures on Lugnaquilla in the Wicklow Mountains for almost a day, after their map blew away and thick fog crept in.

The call around 4pm on Monday sparked a major manhunt involving 60 volunteers from both sides of the border as well as teams and helicopters from the RAF, Irish army and Coastguard.

See: Lost Snowboarders Found In Cross-Border Rescue

(BMcC/JM)

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