Kerry Mountain Rescue Team’s Land Rover Defender, funded by Kerry Group, has been adapted for required rescue standards and is suited to accessing rugged, remote mountain tracks. Team members (l-r): Jimmy Laide, Mike Long and Gerry Christe. (Pic: Valerie O'Sullivan)

Kerry Mountain Rescue Team has replaced the oldest vehicle in its fleet of four Land Rover Defender models with an upgraded model, which has been funded by Kerry Group.

While the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport (DTTAS) had made available a one-off capital grant of €200,000 to Mountain Rescue Ireland, sharing this sum among the 10 mountain rescue teams south of the border translated into a situation where not all teams were able to raise the required level of co-funding for vehicle purchase.

Approached by KMRT for support, Kerry Group allowed the purchase and fitting out, to required rescue standards, of a new Land Rover Defender, which was formally launched at Kerry Group headquarters in Tralee, on 13 November.

KMRT received an annual operational grant of €14,800 from the state in 2015. Between VRT and VAT the state has taken back €13,968 on the purchase of this vehicle alone, which equates to 94.4 per cent of that grant.

The annual grant is administered by the DTTAS via the Coast Guard. Following MRI calls for increased grant aid, a spokesperson for the DTTAS stressed that “budgetary priority must be given to the primary responsibility of providing a marine emergency response…..the Coast Guard budget must prioritise resourcing the assets which are directly available to it…..”.  However, the KRMT believes that channelling state funding through an agency, whose priorities are marine rescue, “does not leave much optimism for meaningful reform”.

According to a KRMT spokesperson, marine rescue equipment is VAT exempt unlike mountain rescue equipment. “This must be contextualised within a state that now markets itself as an adventure destination.

The 2013 Fáilte Ireland market research report stated that ‘in 2011, 740,000 overseas visitors have gone hiking/cross-country walking in Ireland, adding approx. €649m to the economy’ – whereas state support for Mountain Rescue equates to 0.033 per cent of this figure!”