Work on new prison will start in 2015

Paul Faith/PA Wire

Paul Faith/PA Wire

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Justice Minister David Ford says the phased re-development of Magilligan Prison will cost £110 million, starting in June 2015, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.

The minister announced this morning the jail would remain open while re-development takes place. It is part of a £202 million long term development of the prison estate.

The news has been greeted with relief locally, as the jail was being considered for closure by the minister previously.

Limavady deputy Mayor, DUP Colr. Alan Robinson said: “This is a definitive statement by the Minister, one which will be welcomed by the business community and those whose efforts have now been rewarded. I know that this has not been an easy decision for the Minister and it is testament to the hard work and persistent lobbying from my Party and the opposition from most of the political parties at a local level throughout North Londonderry.”

Limavady SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan says it is a “massive boost” for the area.

“It’s a relief for those of us who campaigned for the retention of the prison, keeping jobs and local services in Limavady borough,” he told the ‘Journal’. “It’s the right decision.”

Speaking after his Assembly announcement this morning, the minister told the ‘Journal’ the work would take place over three phases, with completion by December 2019. He said the £110 million investment in Magilligan - which is more than 50 per cent of the estimated total cost of the long term redevelopment of the prison estate - is a “fair commitment”, and “good news” for the economy locally.

The minister said key to his decision regarding Magilligan was doing what was best for prisoners, and their rehabilitation. He said what also influenced his decision was the work being done by local councils, including Limavady Borough Council, in recent months to help identify work and training opportunities in the community for prisoners. The minister said his decision shows consultation into the review of the prison estate, especially with regards to Magilligan was “genuine”.

Local businessman, Harry Canning who runs the Spar in Magilligan with his brother George, says everyone is delighted, and relieved.

“Nobody wants to see businesses closing, especially now, so it’s great news and a big relief,” he told the ‘Journal’. “We get a fair turn out of the prison and we do all the papers, so it really is good news. It’s also good news for the economy, the Limavady area and North West area.”

Local DUP Colr. James McCorkell also welcomed the news, posting on Twitter: “HMP Magilligan to stay open would be a real boost to Limavady and Coleraine Boroughs.”

The news has also been welcomed by Limavady Borough Council.

“Given the many economic blows which Limavady and the wider North West have suffered over the past ten years, this is welcome news for the Borough,” said a spokesperson.

“It will safeguard jobs and ongoing investment to staff and suppliers alike, and hopefully, will have future spin-off to the local construction trade too.

“Limavady Borough Council will play its part too, in helping those who are coming close to release to be rehabilitated through ongoing community schemes and employment training opportunities.

“We look forward to working with colleagues from the Prison Service and other departments and councils over the next few years to implement these plans. For now though, the news that up to 400 jobs have been secured should be the point of focus.”

See further reaction in Friday’s ‘Derry Journal’.