First community air ambulance in Ireland touches down

Helicopter will serve most of the south of Ireland and cost €2 million a year to run

CEO John Kearney (left) and pilot Capt John Murray after Ireland’s first charity air ambulance service touched down at Kerry Airport following its first flight from Wales. Photograph: Don MacMonagle/PA Wire

Ireland’s first privately funded air ambulance service is set to become operational within the next six weeks.

The AW109 helicopter has been leased from Sloane Helicopters in the UK and will be based at Rathcoole, Co Cork. It touched down at Kerry Airport on Friday afternoon.

It will be within 40 minutes flying distance of a large swathe of the south of the country from Kerry to Wexford. The north of the country will continue to be serviced from the Rescue 112 Air Corps helicopter based in Athlone.

The air ambulance will be run by the Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) - a charity dedicated to pre-hospital care - and it will cost €2 million a year to operate.


The money will go towards the leasing of the helicopter and its operation. The Department of Health will provide the medical personnel needed.

ICRR chief executive John Kearney said they had already raised enough money for the first six months of its operation, but will need to raise the rest shortly.

He said the ICRR will shortly be embarking upon a Fuel for Life campaign which will hope to raise €150,000 needed to keep the helicopter flying for 12 months.

The air ambulance is expected to respond up to 500 calls per year, and bring most of the population of a 15,000 square kilometre area within 20 minutes of critical medical care.

It will be tasked through the National Ambulance Service 999 / 112 call system.

Mr Kearney maintains the air ambulance will operate seven days a week and will be critical in getting emergency cases from inaccessible locations to hospitals.

“”Time is a the biggest priority when it comes to serious emergencies in the medical sphere. In many places in Ireland we are challenged with regard to dealing with medical emergencies,” he said.

He pointed out that Wales which is a smaller country than Ireland both in terms of size and population has four community air ambulances.

The ICRR was founded in 2008. Since then it has developed a network of over 200 land based volunteer doctors throughout Ireland delivering emergency medical intervention. It also has ten Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs).

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times