How Rapid Response is saving lives and winning awards

With the ambulance service stretched, a group of award-winning volunteers are proving vital, writes Áilín Quinlan.

How Rapid Response is saving lives and winning awards

JEWELLER Niamh Morrison was trying to catch one of the family horses in a field when she was ‘double-barrelled’ by the animal, who kicked her in the stomach, smashing several ribs and severely damaging her liver.

Mother of international events rider Brian Morrison, Niamh had been about to teach a horse-riding lesson for the West Cork Riding Club at her home in Clonakilty:

“I was bringing a horse in from the field to the stables, and was trying to catch him when he turned around and kicked me in the stomach with both hind legs. He was a very big horse and he knocked me for six.”

Thrown to the ground by the impact, Niamh was about to lose consciousness when she was spotted by some pupils arriving for their lesson — initially she recalls, when they saw her lying on her back waving a hand, they thought she was doing Pilates.

However, they quickly realised something was wrong and called the emergency services. Within 10 minutes, the community-run West Cork Rapid Response vehicle, which supports the Ambulance Service, was routed to Niamh’s home. She was rushed to CUH where tests revealed the kick had caused substantial damage to her liver, severe internal bleeding — and had smashed several ribs. She was in hospital for a fortnight, one week of which was spent in intensive care.

She is now completely recovered, following the accident which happened in the summer of 2011.

“If Rapid Response hadn’t got there so quickly, I wouldn’t have made such an excellent recovery,” says Niamh, who now runs her own jewellery company, Hen Jewellery.

The award-winning West Cork Rapid Response (WCRR) was set up in 2008 with a single volunteer medic and a four-wheel-drive. Its services were in constant demand, and by 2010, it was doing almost 300 annual call-outs throughout the West Cork region to situations involving life-threatening injuries.

“Over the years, we have attended everything from road traffic accidents to marine, farm and general household accidents,” says John Kearney, one of the founders.

The service was so popular that, between 2010 and 2012, and with the support of the Arthur Guinness Foundation, the service set up a separate body, Irish Community Rapid Response, to develop a model to develop rapid response groups throughout Ireland.

ICRR is currently in discussions with more than 20 other communities and the National Ambulance Service as it moves towards setting up a national network of rapid response services — a very successful Rapid Response group has already been established in East Cork.

Last year ICRR won a major Impact award — and a crucial €200,000 grant — from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, an Irish not-for-profit organisation that supports people with new solutions to Ireland’s biggest social and environmental problems.

The money is strictly ring-fenced for the development of new rapid response teams in other parts of rural Ireland — so Kearney points out, rapid response services in East and West Cork are still utterly dependent on local fundraising.

“We don’t get any government support,” Kearney stresses, explaining that between them the two services, which are run by 60 volunteers, save an average of two lives a month and come to the aid of some 500 people during its 600 or so yearly callouts.

Rapid Response is just one of several organisations which have benefited from the support of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland — other award winners include the hugely successful Mens’ Sheds initiative and the MyMind programme, which aims to build an accessible and affordable network of community- based mental health services.

At the end of this month the group will officially launch its nationwide search for people who have innovative ideas and new solutions to solve some of Ireland’s social and environmental problems — although applications for this year’s competition are now open.

As part of its launch the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team will be visiting seven locations around Ireland to meet as many potential applicants as possible. The annual competition, now in its tenth year, has backed 169 social entrepreneurs to date and invested €5.4m in direct funding to projects in areas ranging from community and active citizenship, education and learning, environment and sustainability and mental and physical health.

This year, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is providing €420,000 in funding to nine social entrepreneurs.

Successful applicants will also be provided with access to supports and training, helping them to develop a detailed and robust growth plan for their projects to scale effectively.

Over the next month the roadshow will visit Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Longford and Belfast. Closing date for entries to the 2014 competition is 5pm on Monday, April 28. The winning nominees will be announced at a ceremony in November 2014.


-Tuesday, April 1 — Cork (Information evening at 6pm in the Cork Academy of Music)

-Thursday, April 3 — Limerick (Information evening at 6pm in King John’s Castle)

-Friday, April 4 — Galway (Information evening at 6pm in the Business School at NUIG)

-Monday, April 7 — Longford (Information evening at 7pm in Temperance Hall)

For more information about the awards or roadshow see, or visit

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