The body representing mountain rescue teams around the country has called for greater public funding for the service they provide.

Mountain Rescue Ireland spokesman Gerry Christie said teams get €250,000 in public funds per year but that another €500,000 is needed for all running costs.

He said everyone in the mountain rescue service is an unpaid volunteer.

However, he said, there are costs for insurance, radio licences and equipment such as stretchers, sling ropes and specialist vacuum mattresses to stabilise injured climbers.

Mountain rescue teams must also pay 23% VAT on all rescue equipment they buy, while the same equipment is sold VAT free to water-based rescue services due to an exemption under an EU VAT directive.

Mr Christie said the mountain rescue service is left short and is forced to fundraise even though it is an integral part of the 999 infrastructure.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar is responsible for the public funds given to mountain rescue.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said the minister halted the annual decline in funding to the service when he took up office in 2011, even though overall departmental funding has dropped 27% since then.

He said the minister will shortly announce capital funding for the purchase of new 4x4 vehicles.

He also said Mr Varadkar is keen to have the mountain rescue service placed under the permanent jurisdiction of one Government department, rather than having a number of departments dealing with it as is currently the situation.

This news has been welcomed by Mountain Rescue Ireland.

However, it still maintains that an additional €500,000 in public funding would allow it concentrate more on rescue work and less on fundraising.

It says that hiking and mountain walking is worth €650m per year to the country and that €750,000 would ensure an adequately funded volunteer based rescue service is in place.