Minister can’t confirm approval for prison rebuild

Magilligan Prison. Picture Margaret McLaughlin � please by-line 20-12-13
Magilligan Prison. Picture Margaret McLaughlin � please by-line 20-12-13

The construction of a new prison at Magilligan cannot be guaranteed, Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has said.

The Minister had been asked by local MLA George Robinson to outline the progress made on work to rebuild Magilligan Prison and to confirm whether the newbuild will create additional and permanent employment opportunities at HMP Magilligan, which could help to alleviate the unemployment situation in the surrounding area.

Mr Ford replied: “Prison Service officials are nearing completion of the outline business case for the redevelopment of Magilligan prison, which will be submitted for approval within the next two months.

“It is DFP’s decision as to whether to grant approval for the capital funding for the project. That decision will determine the timeline for the development of the new prison at Magilligan.

“I am afraid that, at this stage and without the approval of DFP, I cannot guarantee that the project will go ahead as I would wish, and nor can I guarantee that there will be additional employment, since one of the key issues for any newbuild will be to ensure that it is manageable in the most efficient manner possible.

“However, when we talk about employment, we should recognise that we have now completed the voluntary early retirement scheme, with a significant number of officers being able to leave with dignity from the services that they performed in the past, and the introduction of a significant number of new operational staff who will help to implement the planned reforms of the Prison Service.”

The Minister, pressed on the suitability of the location of rebuilding a new prison at Magilligan by West Belfast MLA Rosie McCorley, said: “Following good discussions, in particular with councils in the north-west, we are able to see how better community links can be established to ensure that we provide opportunities for prisoners for outside work, in particular, to ensure connections with local businesses. As a result of that, we have been able to proceed with plans to rebuild at Magilligan.”