Magilligan closure plans are branded ‘foolish’

David McClarty MLA speaking at the Magilligan Prison campaign launch with Finlay Spratt, centre, head of the Prison Officer's Association, and Lenny Lucas, local Prison Officer's Association branch chairperson. (2509PG71)
David McClarty MLA speaking at the Magilligan Prison campaign launch with Finlay Spratt, centre, head of the Prison Officer's Association, and Lenny Lucas, local Prison Officer's Association branch chairperson. (2509PG71)

The chairman of the local branch of the Prison Officers’ Association has appealed to Justice Minister, David Ford to reconsider plans to close Magilligan jail.

Lenny Lucas represents hundreds of prison workers and has branded plans to close the North’s second largest prison as “foolish”.

“There are a total of 485 staff in Magilligan and, at the end of the day, it’s a local prison and is a big part of the community,” he told the Journal, at the recent launch of a campaign to fight the plans.

“There are big changes in the Prison Service as it is, so for this to come in on top of it, well it hasn’t done morale any good at all.”

Mr. Lucas said most prison officers have families and children in schools.

“It’s not so much about the money factor; it’s the upheaval. If an officer has to travel to Maghaberry so does the whole family, and then there are schools to take into account,” he said.

The campaign to fit the plans includes a petition the Association hopes will bet 20,000 signatures they will deliver to David Ford after a march to Stormont in November.

In the meantime, Limavady Council will join a delegation from Coleraine Borough Council and the Toe Valley Chamber of rade to meet with the minister on 
October 24.

Mr. Lucas hopes that support and the campaign will force the minister to reconsider.

“As far as I am aware the land they would build on in Maghaberry has been sold and would have to be bought back again,” said Mr. Lucas, “and then they’d have to spend so many millions to keep this place open until they close it.

“Wouldn’t that money be better invested in the new prison here and allow for a jail for maybe 50-100 years?” said Mr. Lucas.

“It seems daft to move 400 odd staff to the Belfast area and then move the Department of Agriculture, 800 jobs, to Ballykelly. I just don’t understand it.

“It’s foolish and I would ask the minister to reconsider. “