Rescue team fund appeal

Rescue team fund appeal

5 June 2024

THE public is being asked to help the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team secure the key funding it needs for a new base.

The cost of the ultra-modern regional facility in the shadow of the Mournes  has rocketed to £1m, leaving the rescue team needing £400,000 to deliver it.

Originally, the cost of the base on land at Newcastle’s Shanslieve Drive in the resort was £650,000 but, due to significant increases in construction costs, the price has almost doubled.

To compound the current difficulty,two  grants worth  £1m were  lost  as  delays  in securing planning permission for the site owned by supermarket giant Lidl meant the deadline for spending the money was missed.

The rescue team, which has £600,000 in the bank to help meet the construction cost, is reaching out to the public to raise the remainder it needs to leave the charity debt free and able to focus on delivering its highly regarded rescue service.

The appeal for public support was launched online last week and, remarkably, several thousand pounds has already been donated, mainly by the rescue team’s social media followers.

It currently has 30,000 followers and if everyone donated £13.33 the £400,000 would be raised.

Twelve years ago when the rescue team celebrated its 50th anniversary, it identified one of the key challenges it faced was the lack of a fit for purpose base and set itself the target of finding a new home.

Lidl stepped forward with the offer of a site adjacent to its planned new store with planning approval applied for in 2017. Objections to the store proposal and Covid further delayed the project.

With £600,000 in the bank courtesy of donations and the efforts of fundraisers over the past 12 years and formal planning approval now in place, the rescue team’s focus is on raising the £400,000 needed to allow construction work to start.

Rescue team officials say with a real opportunity to get on-site in the not-too-distant future, they desperately need public support to help them plug the funding shortfall.

The preferred option is to raise the funds to complete the build without burdening the team with a significant debt, but the rescue team may have to look at alternative options including securing a loan.

Grant applications are also being applied for.

Martin McMullan, the team’s rescue co-ordinator, board director and trustee, hopes the appeal for public support will resonate with people not only locally, but regionally and even further afield.

“We lost two grants worth a total of £1m and while we have £600,000 in the bank it is not enough to complete the planned new build,” he explained.

“We have been scrimping and saving and donations have come in which we put into a base fund. People have been very generous with financial support and these have been greatly received. We have accrued just over £600,000.

“It is absolutely fantastic what the public has raised on our behalf via sponsored walks, cake sales quizzes and donations.”

Mr McMullan said the rescue team is very diligent about how it handles its funds.

“The original costing for the project was £650,000 but because of the delays and inflation in construction costs, we are now looking at build cost of £1m for the same project but are just under £400,000 short,” he continued.

“We now need to look at how we bridge that gap. Plan A is that we raise the funds, build the base as planned and that’s us and we leave the charity debt free, or we end up having to borrow the money which would put the charity in debt and as it goes forward and it will have to continue to work to pay that off and raise funds to do that.”

Mr McMullan said the rescue team is reaching out to the public to see if there is anyone who can help it in anyway.

“Since the appeal was posted on our Facebook page we have had donations of several thousand pounds. If everyone of our Facebook followers gave us us £13.33 we would achieve our target,” he explained.

The rescue team co-ordinator said the ideal scenario is to raise the money and ensure there is no debt.

“At the minute, our priority is providing a rescue service and every time we go to do something else that detracts from are core objective which is to deliver that rescue service. As the team has become much busier over the years, every member is focused on that operational aspect of delivering that service,” he said.

“We don’t have the capacity to start a whole separate fundraising campaign and committing people to that. It would be nice if we could, but we don’t have that capability.

“We don’t have paid employees and what we do is completely and entirely voluntary. But we don’t want to accrue a debt which leaves those volunteers going forward for the next 10, 15 or 25 years having to pay off.”

Mr McMullan said the rescue team has become an exceptionally busy and on average is responding to over one call each week.

To make a donation to the appeal visit