The welcome news that the Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team (SLMRT) has recovered the equipment that had been stolen from them recently was a positive note on which to end the week. The surge of public support which was very evident online in the week or so since the equipment went missing from the service’s base in Sligo underlines the importance the public sees in this vital service, and our anger towards those who think it’s acceptable to put lives at risk in this way.
At least the SLMRT can return to doing what they have been doing every day and night for the past 25 years or so, that is provide a free, 24 hour service to anyone who walk or climb the mountains for recreational or other purposes. No matter what level of expertise a walker or mountaineer has, it’s always reassuring to know that a highly skilled team is just a phone call away if you get into bother while out on the mountain.
The robbery also serves to remind us of how challenging it is for the team of volunteers involved with the SLMRT to stay on top of the rising costs of maintaining this service. At the start of the year, Sligo Walks heard from members of the team who described the work they do. The interview was done on a dark and wet evening as the team was about to head out on a training exercise while the rest of us were looking forward to putting the feet up at home for the evening.
Like most people involved in voluntary groups, they spoke enthusiastically about the work they do and the service provided to the public, but they did also speak about the challenges of maintaining the service in the face of rising costs. They receive some public funding – almost all of which is set against their annual insurance costs. This means that outside of donations and occasional once-off grants, all of the funding they need to run the service, buy and service equipment, is done by the team themselves and their supporters.
On average the team is called out to help members of the public at least once a month, and these incidents can range in gravity from the straightforward to the extreme – but often they will not know until they are on site what degree of difficulty is to be overcome to effect a successful rescue, and how long that operation might last for. To have to set out without some of their most important equipment would have meant not only heightening the risk for those being rescued, but I’m sure could also have put the rescue team itself into even more challenging situations than they would have expected.
So, thanks to the great work done in co-operation with the Gardaí, the SLMTR can now resume their duties in the coming days. And if this distasteful incident had one other positive outcome, it heightened the awareness of the importance of the work that rescue teams all around the country do to keep members of the public safe.
We owe them – and their colleagues around the north west who were on standby while the equipment was missing – a debt of gratitude for their continued service to the walking and mountaineering communities.
On social media during the week, people had organized some fundraising events in light of the robbery, and it’s good to see that despite the happy outcome, these events will still go ahead.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are 3 main events which take place every year to raise funds for the SLMRT. The first of these takes place next month – a pub quiz in Connolly’s Bar in Sligo on May 26th at 8pm. All are welcome, just turn up on the night. Teams of 4, cost €20. The annual Ben Bulben night walk will take place on July 15th next and registration is now open on www.sligoleitrimmrt.ie. The next street collection will take place in October, so if you see a member of the SLMRT on a corner holding a bucket, give as generously as you can to sustain a vital – and often forgotten – service that any of us might need some day.