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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Larrisa Nolan & Anna McAree

New RTE series highlights Derry Foyle Search and Rescue heroes

A new RTE series that starts tonight showcases the world of the emergency services and meets everyday heroes behind the stories, including Derry's own Foyle Search and Rescue.

The four-part Irish language '999 Faoi Olliunt' charts the lives and progress of new recruits in the fire brigade, ambulance service, mountain rescue and coast guard.

In Derry, Foyle Search and Rescue was set up in 1993 in response to the high number of drownings in the River Foyle. The volunteers are trained to deal with accident and suicide prevention as well as rescuing people.

Read more: Rape victims' charities had data stolen in attack on Derry company

Martin O’Neil has been with the charity for six months of a year-long training programme.

He said: "You aren’t on your own at any point. There are a lot of people there who have a lot of experience."

On the job, O’Neil finds quickly that time is of the essence. When a real life emergency call comes in, he and his team find no two nights are the same.

He said: "On a typical night, you don’t know what to expect. Nervous, that’s the word. You think of the things you learned in the classroom. Things are very different when you are on patrol."

O’Neil, a father of three boys, hopes they will follow in his footsteps and help the community. Like many volunteers, he gives a lot of his personal time and makes sacrifices by working voluntary night shifts. But he feels compelled to help ensure no one enters the water.

He said: "I knew there was a problem with suicide, but I hadn’t a clue just how bad the problem was. The help isn’t there to deal with everyone, so that’s why we are here. We want to help in any way we can."

Alongside Foyle Search and Rescue, other vital services across Ireland are highlighted.

Niamh Ni Cuachain is one of 34 cadets begins training at the fire brigade in Tuam, Co Galway. One of just two women in the cadets, Ni Cuachain says she was reticent at first.

She wondered: "Would I annoy the lads? Then I said to myself, why not? I’m able to do this. They just wanted to help because they were reared well. As far as I could see, I could lift more than the lads at times."

In Tarrthail Sleibhe, County Mayo, new mother Emer Durkan is preparing for her first day training with Mayo Mountain Rescue. She is one of six cadets who recently joined the rescue team on Croagh Patrick.

As the volunteers head up the mountain, they encounter hundreds of people supporting Charlie Bird in his bid to climb the mountain in aid of Motor Neuron Disease. Like Charlie, the journey up the mountain is close to Durkan's heart.

She said: "My man and dad both got sick at the same time when I was living in Mexico, so I came home to take care of them. The reason I and everyone on the team does what we do is because we want give something back and help people."

The first episode of ‘999 Faoi Olliunt’ four part documentary will air tonight at 8pm on RTE One.


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