Derry & Strabane Council have unanimously backed a call for central government funding for Foyle Search and Rescue.
Independent Councillor Sean Carr presented a motion to this effect before the June monthly meeting of the council.
Colr. Carr’s motion asked the council to “call upon the Northern Ireland Executive, in particular the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, to support financially Foyle Search and Rescue, who are recognised by the people of the this city and region as our fourth emergency service”.
He added: “The organisation has more than proved itself to be an invaluable service to this city and beyond.”
It was clarified during the meeting that FS&R for the past five years have received £125,000 from the government but that responsibilty has now been transferred to a different department. Councillors said they are hopeful this support will continue and possibly be increased in the years ahead.
Speaking to his motion, Colr. Carr said: “I am sure I don’t have convince anyone in here about the services FS&R give to this city and region.”
He went on to praise the organisation’s 70 volunteers who patrol the River Foyle, 24/7 call out team and 30 fundraisers who have been working tirelessly to help towards the £200,000 a year it takes to keep the service going.
Colr. Carr detailed how it takes £3,000 to train and equip a member of the response team and £1,700 to train and clothe members of the Shore Patrol. He also paid tribute to employers who let FS&R volunteer staff leave their work to respond to emergencies, and made mention of the fact that FS&R were turned down for funding to expand their base at Prehen to allow for more volunteers to be trained and more space to house equipment.
The motion was seconded by Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly, who said he wholeheartedly supported it. Colr. Donnelly said that FS&R were operating in an area were deprivation was rife, and said the Chief Medical Officer had found clear links between deprivation and rates of suicide.
Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Campbell said it was difficult to find someone in this city who didn’t know someone lost to the river.
He added that since its inception in 1993, FS& R has saved hundreds of lives, adding that the vast amount of major events during the City of Culture year would have proved impossible without FS&R involvement.
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly spoke about the long held “affection, understanding and depth of feeling people have for this local charity”, while the DUP’s Graham Warke spoke of the dozens taken from the river or rescued from the river’s edge in the first six months of this year alone.
Meanwhile, FS&R has confirmed its volunteers rescued a man from the River Foyle at the weekend.
At 1.39am on Saturday, FS&R Duty Teams were alerted by an off duty volunteer that a man had been seen entering the River.
Shore, Mobile and Boat Crew managed to get to the scene within minutes. The man was located and rescued by the Duty Team Boat Crew and treated for cold water shock en route to FS&R headquarters at Prehen.
The man was later transferred by ambulance to Altnagelvin Hospital.