Two MLAs took the plunge yesterday to support the lifesaving war of Lagan Search and Rescue.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin and Sammy Douglas of the DUP joined forces to take part in a simulated rescue by the volunteers of Lagan Search and Rescue in the Lagan at Shaws Bridge on Sunday – before enjoying a swim in the river. And now the pair are backing a bid by Lagan Search and Rescue to base their operations in the vacant Lagan Lookout and weir in the city centre.

“Lagan Search and Rescue provides an acute water rescue and independent lifeboat service for the River Lagan and the City of Belfast,” says Rescue Operations Manager Phil Batt.

“Our independent lifeboat service serves the River Lagan and Belfast Harbour and all operations are  supported by our own Emergency Medical Response Team, a Rescue Swimmer Corps and a Kayak Rescue Corps. A move to the Lagan Lookout and weir would enhance our response times and be a boon to our work.”

“I am a huge admirer of Lagan Search and Rescue and applaud their dedication and commitment to keeping the community safe,” said South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. “Now that the city is about to make a major investment in the Lagan – reversing 60 years of neglect – this is the perfect time for us to properly resource the Lagan Search and Rescue team.”

Lagan Search and Rescue not only provides an emergency response, but assists Belfast City Council and Belfast Harbour Police during the high-profile events that draw visitors to the River Lagan, the Titanic Quarter and the Belfast Harbour Estate.

“As a frequent user of facilities in the Laganside and Titanic Quarter areas, I am aware of and hugely impressed with the excellent work that is carried out by Lagan Search and Rescue,” said East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas. “I witnessed this dedication and commitment recently on a cold, wet and stormy night as I walked along Laganside Walkway after attending the Carl Frampton World Title Fight in the Odyssey Arena. Their visible presence, as thousands of people returned home along the river, was reassuring to many parents and families.”

As well as joining the Lagan Search and Rescue volunteers as they carried out the rescue of a stranded canoeist on the Lagan, the MLAs slalomed down the rapids at Shaws Bridge before being hauled ashore by rope.