DAERA NI – Funding Press Release

This funding will make a big difference to our future operations and we would like to thank both DAERA NI and Minister Edwin Poots for their support.


09 February 2022 

Rescuing lives from the skies 

Almost £500,000 has been given to two search and rescue groups that played a vital role in controlling last year’s devastating fire on the Mourne Mountains.

Mourne Mountain Rescue received £212,000 and Skywatch NI received £284,000 from the new £2million Covid Scheme announced by Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots. The scheme will help nine of the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue (NISAR) teams, who rescue some 500 people each year, to purchase essential life-saving equipment.

Minister Poots visited Co Down to hand over letters of offer to the organisations. The Minister said:  “The organisations I have visited showcase the very best of Northern Ireland. They are community organisations that rely wholly on the commitment and dedication of volunteers who often risk their own lives for the protection of others. 

“Both organisations played a vital role in the fire that scorched the Mournes in April 2021. Mourne Mountain Rescue assisted on the ground, while Skywatch NI helped to direct the NI Fire and Rescue Service with thermal imaging from hi-tech drones. Without a doubt, their contribution helped to save lives, businesses and minimise the impact on biodiversity in the area. 

“This funding will enable NISAR teams from across the region to purchase essential life-saving equipment such as all-terrain vehicles, defibrillators and fire-resistant PPEs.”

The Minister continued: “Throughout the pandemic there has been an increase in the number of people visiting our countryside and using our waterways and in some cases this has led to an increase in the level of call-outs experienced by Northern Ireland Search and Rescue Services.  This scheme will help improve the responsiveness of the NISAR services and safeguard delivery of those services into the future.”

The first letter of offer was presented to Mourne Mountain Rescue who received just over £200,000 to purchase a wide range of equipment and personal protective equipment. This includes: a multi-road, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV); a specially adapted 4 x 4; inflatable shelter; defibrillators; specialist PPE; and mountain rescue stretchers.

Martin McMullan, Mourne Mountain Rescue said: “The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team is an entirely voluntary 999 Emergency Service on call 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year, ready to respond to assist those in need through mishap, injury or illness whilst living, working, and playing in the greater Mourne region.

“As one of the busiest teams on the island of Ireland, with over 100 rescues in the 2021 calendar year, pressures on the team and its specialist resources, including wear and tear have increased considerably. The funds awarded through the DAERA Rural Community Rescue Fund will enable us to expand our resources, reducing pressures and increasing the capacity of the team to meet with the continually growing demand. We’re exceptionally grateful to the Department and its Officers for making such a significant contribution to the team and in turn, to the wider Mourne Community as a whole.”

The other letter of offer was presented to Skywatch NI who received funding of just over £280,000 for drones, fire resistant PPE, a multi-road All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and rescue vehicles. This equipment will allow Skywatch to use drones with thermal imaging to search for missing persons and direct the Fire Service to gorse and forest fires.

Paul Trimble, Skywatch said: “Skywatch NI is a charity that provides aerial surveillance to statutory services for emergency response.  We are delighted to receive this invaluable funding from DAERA.  We will use it to purchase four wheel drive vehicles, drones and an ATV and these will help give access to mountains and difficult terrains for search and rescue.

The Minister concluded: “I am delighted to be able to provide this necessary support to community Search and Rescue Services to ensure that our rural open spaces and waterways are safe and attractive to the increasing the number of visitors we have to our countryside.”

Covid -19 suspension of Non-Emergency Activity

As a result of the developing medical situation with COVID-19, Sky Watch NI, in the interest of protecting our staff and supporters, is temporarily suspending all Non-Emergency activity until further notice. This means that we are unable to participate in any presentations or fundraising events until the current medical situation changes.  

In the mean time Sky Watch will still respond to emergency callouts as required.

Sky Watch NI and Wildland Fires 2018

Sky Watch NI have spent the first half of July working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. 

It all started on the 26th June when we were tasked by the fire service to attend a wild land fire close to the Glenshane pass which had been going for a few days. We worked closely with the fire service, Forestry service  and Rescue 116 the Coastguard Helicopter.





A few pictures of Rescue 116 on scene with Sky Watch NI

Call number two came a week later this was to a peat bog outside  Rasharkin on 4th July.  We could see the smoke from miles back as we drove to the incident,  The fire was smoldering more than flames but as daylight subsided the flames intensified.  
Due to the long duration of this incident the Sky Watch NI team worked in shifts, this was the first time we had to deploy a shift pattern.  The evening shift got this impressive image.  We were at Rasharkin for two days.  By the evening of day 2 the fire was well under control.

Our third call out found us at the South Eastern part of the country. We were once again deployed but this time to Meigh. We liaised with the Incident commander to discuss the concerns.We were were on scene for two days. While dealing with the main fire we could see plumes of smoke from other sites in the distance.



We spent the day videoing the fire spreading through the tree line and thanks to Mourne Heritage Trust for ferrying us and our kit around. Properties were safe and we were eventually stood down.Little did we know we would be back the next day.

Day one we were listening to the trees burning they were going off like a match that had just been struck.

Please visit our Facebook page we have several videos for you to see

Day two the Irish Army Air Corps were called in to help with the fire. They brought a 1200 litre Bambi bucket and two helicopters this enabled them to dowse the fire with water from the nearby Camlough Lake.We worked closely with the helicopter crews and this is not the first occasion we have had to share airspace with a full sized aircraft.

Tractor Run in aid of Sky Watch (NI)-25th March

Sky Watch (NI) are holding a Tractor Run on Saturday 25th March 2017 to raise funds for training and equipment for their Search Unit.  The gates open at 1200 and all are welcome to attend.  The tractors will be setting of at 2pm and the run will last for approximately one hour returning to Lilburn’s Farm.

Entry is £10 per tractor and passengers are £5

Entry includes a £2 token to use at the catering van and one ticket for the raffle.

Entrance forms are completed on arrival.

Search for missing 23 year old Jack Glenn on the River Foyle

Sky Watch Ni were tasked by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to attend a search on the River Foyle on Saturday 11th February 2017 to assist in the search for a missing 23 year old.

A team of four responded and initially completed a search of  the reed beds from Granshna Park area.

They then returned to Foyle Rescues Head Quarters to view the footage and then deployed on one of their boats to check and rule out some items on the video tape.

They then returned to Foyle Rescues Head Quarters to view the footage and then deployed on one of their boats to check and rule out some items on the video tape.










We would like to thank Foyle Rescue for assisting us to get to the more inaccessible areas.

Sky watch NI – Review of 2016


2016 was quite a busy year for Sky Watch NI.  The officers and responders have been working hard behind the scenes.  The team is growing and the experience we have among the team is very varied but all are very experienced in what they do.

They have attended several courses to ensure their skills are all current and working on a more structured Sky Watch NI.

The year was started with a Mountain Rescue Leadership Course and ended with Basic Life Savings Skills.


The Leadership Course was an opportunity for some of our Responders and Officers to work and train with other Rescue Units from both North and South of the border.  This was a weekend event and involved leading teams on exercises and ending with a major incident.


April saw us involved in a training exercise at the new Gobbins Cliff Path at Islandmagee training with the Coastguard.  This gave some of the Responders a chance to experience being carried in rescue stretchers.

June we were working with Lough Neagh Rescue at Kinnego Marina, Oxford Island in a multi agency rescue exercise.

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September we could be seen at the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham.  We had a stall there and this gave the Response team a chance to look at what new equipment is available and to Network with similar units.


October we spent a day with the Coastguard at Ards

Airfield.  We were invited as part of a familiarisation day for

Coastguard members, to make them aware of

what air assets were available to them.  Responders also went for some off road training later in the month.


December was very busy.  Some of the team went over to represent the Northern Ireland members at the Sky Watch UK AGM at Sywell aerodrome.

We also were at Kinnego Marina again testing some of our equipment in the water.

The year ended with the responders completing a Basic Life Saving course at Craigavon Area Hospital.  Thanks to Bernie O’Connor the Resuscitation Officer, at Craigavon Area Hospital for providing this.

In between this the responders have been involved in several searchs for both missing people and on occasions missing animals.

They have conducted several presentations to groups, we would like to thank the groups as all funds raised on these evenings are used to fund Sky Watch NI.

What does 2017 hold for the team and the members?

We have more training to complete to ensure we are the best at what we do.

We aim to hold an open day later in 2017 to show our members what we can do. An opportunity to see the latest equipment and explain how those who wish to can become more involved.

Events that are open to members and where we need additional assistance will be emailed to registered members.

I hope this reassures you that we have been busy, growing and becoming more inclusive.

The team are looking forward to what 2017 has to bring.