Five died on Irish mountains last year
The number of casualties on Ireland's mountains dropped slightly last year, but rescue teams say the fall is explained by the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Five people died and 49 were injured in accidents on the hills in 2001, according to the Irish Mountain Rescue Association. Some 148 people received assistance in 134 incidents.
The association, whose 12 rescue teams operate on a voluntary basis North and South, says it is facing a funding shortfall.
It has called on the Government to provide a massive increase in funding to ensure that basic safety equipment can be provided for the rescue teams.
The current allocation of €67,000 is only 10 per cent of requirements, the association says.
"Because of the funding situation, team members are not provided with basic personal rescue equipment such as rescue harnesses, helmets and waterproof clothing.
"Instead, they are using personal climbing equipment and clothing to subsidise the service," according to Mr David Butler, PRO of the association.
Mr Butler pointed out that mountain rescue was the only 999 emergency service which had to rely on fund-raising to provide most of its operating costs. "In contrast, the voluntary coastguard, coast and cliff rescue teams have full Government funding and members even get paid for training and call-outs, although this money is generally put towards the purchase of equipment."
He said there were no plans to make those assisted contribute towards the cost of their rescue, as happened in some other European states.
About half of those rescued opt to make a voluntary donation to the rescue services.
Four of last year's fatalities occurred in Co Kerry, the other was in Wicklow.
The most common injuries were to the leg and ankle, though more serious injuries were also reported.
Two victims had head injuries, one had spinal injuries and three had heart attacks.
Ten people were treated for hypothermia.
The busiest area was Dublin and Wicklow, with 45 incidents, followed by the Glen of Imaal, also in Co Wicklow, with 39.
The impact of the foot-and-mouth crisis on overseas tourism is evident from the fact that one in five of those rescued were non-Irish. In 2000, before the crisis, one in three was from overseas.
In 2000, IMRA reported 59 injuries and six fatalities on the mountains.