Magilligan Prison could close, starting in 2018, under a proposal by the Prison Service scheduled to go before the Justice Committee on Thursday, the Journal has learned.
Limavady councillor for the Magilligan area, Sinn Fein’s Cathal McLaughlin said the proposal - if it goes ahead - would hurt the local area economically, but would, in the long run, present “acres of tourism opportunities”.
Colr. McLaughlin said last night: “It’s hoped the consultation on this proposal will begin as soon as it is tabled on Thursday. It would mean closure would start by 2018, because that is how long it will take.
“It’s sad and regrettable it has come to this because, personally, I know people who work in the Prison Service and the local community will be hurt.
“However, we hope the tourism opportunities that would open up would offset that.
“We believe there is room for anything there - a state of the art hotel, a golf resort. There are acres of opportunities.”
Limavaday mayor Sean McGlinchey said should the prison close it would “without a doubt be a massive blow” to the local area - from those who work there, to local businesses providing goods and services to the prison.
He added, however, that under the prison reforms, the system needed to be looked at and reformed.
“David Ford said at the Alliance Party conferance at the weekend the prison system needs to be streamlined and made more efficient. We need a system that caters for everyone’s needs, and has the proper services in place to help prisoners rehabilitate and that is humane. As well as that The North has one of the highest rates of prison officers per prisoners in Europe. There has to be reform.”