The redevelopment of Magilligan Prison will not be complete for another eight years, the Justice Minister David Ford has said.
The Minister, who had been asked to provide an update on progress towards the prison rebuild, said that a business case to support the redevelopment will soon be sent for approval to the Department of Finance for approval.
He also declined an invitation from East Derry MLA John Dallat to spend a night in the prison to see for himself the conditions staff and inmates face in Magilligan.
Mr Ford was asked for an update on the redevelopment work by East Derry MLA Claire Sugden. He said: “The outline business case for the redevelopment of Magilligan prison was submitted to DOJ financial services division for scrutiny in August this year. My officials are assessing its content, and Prison Service officials have been working closely with them to address some of the finer details. Once the financial services division officials confirm that they are content with the outline business case, they will submit it to the Department of Finance for approval.”
He continued: “ It is not clear at this stage what finance will be available. The time line that we are looking at is for a phased redevelopment that would allow the prison to remain in operation while building work is done, which could take until 2022-23.
“On that basis, the capital sums required in any one year are relatively modest and within what we anticipate being the Department of Justice’s capital budget, but, clearly, there is competition for priorities — no doubt, at some point soon, other Members will jump up and refer to Hydebank Wood and Maghaberry as well as any other DOJ responsibility.”
SDLP MLA John Dallat also asked the Minister to spend a night in Magilligan, saying: “ For the Minister to appreciate the absolute priority that this should be, would he be prepared to spend a night in Magilligan prison to experience the conditions under which the staff and inmates exist?”
The Minister, David Ford, replied: “I was in Magilligan for a detailed visit in the early part of the summer and am well aware of the inadequacies of the physical accommodation. Certainly, the H-blocks and some of the facilities in Foyleview, the open unit outside the prison, are of a decidedly third- or fourth-rate nature, yet some exceptionally good work is being done.”
He added: “ So, I might not go and stay the night, but I assure Mr Dallat that I will continue to visit it by day.”