Volunteers from Mallow search and rescue team seek funding

A ministerial clap on the back for a job well done is a regular occurrence for Mallow Search and Rescue.
Volunteers from Mallow search and rescue team seek funding

However, the unsung heroes of the volunteer group spent 225 days last year performing many search and recovery missions.

They operate four boats but rely solely on their own fundraising efforts to continue.

John Woulfe, who has been at the helm of the group for 15 years, has more than 20 active members willing to give up their time.

“We don’t receive any state funding at the moment, which makes the money side of things really tough,” said Mr Woulfe.

“Without the people of Mallow and some very impressive fundraising from others we would never be able to keep going.

“We have four boats and two vehicles to keep running, as well as a huge amount of diving and safety gear which needs to be kept up to date.

“We really do need state funding, however, for the last number of years, all we are getting is promises. We really do need some action.”

The North Cork group was honoured again in recent weeks at the 2015 Irish Water Safety annual awards in Dublin Castle.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly presented long service awards to some of the volunteers. Fifteen members have more than 270 years’ service between them with two received awards for 30 years of volunteering.

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Mr Woulfe, one of the 30-year recipients, said: “We were out 225 days last year.

“It had been a particularly difficult year as we were on a lot of long searches. One search took 63 days but, when we start, we feel it is important to finish the job.

“Unfortunately the majority of the jobs we go on are recovery not rescue but that is important too. We try to always bring home the victims to their families.

“We go when and where we are required.”

Mr Woulfe assumes responsibilty for ensuring the unit runs to the highest standards, and within a budget dependent on public kindness.

Three main fundraisers yearly account for 40% funding, with individual efforts by people from all parts of the country making up the shortfall.

The Brian O’Tuama Fund, in particular, aided the purchase of a Rib and a Side Scanning Sonar costing €43,000.

The fund was set up his family after the tragic loss of the UCC student in the River Lee in 2009.

So far, 2015 has been less quieter than last year but Mr Woulfe said there are still difficult days ahead over the winter.

“Unfortunately, the winter sees us called out a lot more than at any other time of the year,” said Mr Woulfe. “It is sad to say but we will have people out more often than not in the next few months which means that there will be painful times ahead for lots of families.”

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