ALL but two Coleraine Borough councillors backed a motion calling on the Minister for Justice, David Forde, to rebuild Magilligan prison on its current site.
Submitted by Independent councillor, David McClarty, the motion was supported by all in the chamber, except the two Alliance councillors - Barney Fitzpatrick and Yvonne Boyle,
The motion read:
“Mindful of the devastating economic effect of the proposed closure of HMP Magilligan to this, and neighbouring boroughs, this Council calls on the Minister for justice to rebuild the prison on its current site as soon as necessary funding become available.”
Addressing members, councillor McClarty spoke of the economic impact the closure would have on the Coleraine area: “The closure will wipe out jobs which will in turn wipe out the economy.”
Councillor McClarty went on to say that the 400 staff of the prison lived within a 20 mile radius of Magilligan.
He claimed that the proposal from the Minister would benefit the families of the prisoners in the Greater Belfast area: “Four hundred families of hard working staff are being moved to help the families of prisoners. Prisoners are there to be punished,” he said.
“It is claimed that Magilligan prison is not fit for purpose - some of our schools are not fit for purpose but the Northern Ireland Executive won’t spend on them.
“This proposal is a ridiculous haemorrage of money. Spending money on new land, we have have the land at Magilligan, money from the public purse. This proposal is only to suit the population of Greater Belfast, There is life and economy north of Glengormley.”
Supporting the motion, UUP councillor, William McCandless, said: “Magilligan has supported the community well for the past 40 years. How have we arrived at this when a few years ago there was talk of a new Magilligan Prison?
“This money would be better spent on education or on hospitals.”
DUP alderman Maurice Bradley urged the East Londonderry MLA’s to “exert as much pressure as possible” on the Minister.
“ We can’t have more jobs lost from this area.
“We as a Council should support this motion and write to the Minister expressing our concerns”.
DUP councillor Adrian McQuillan described the government proposal as “sad”.
“The Direct Rule minister wanted to build on the site a few years ago. It is sad that one of our own wants to move it.
“George Robinson brought a proposal to the Executive recently which was supported by all who spoke on it.
“It is not a done deal by any means,” said the DUP man.
UUP councillor David Harding added:” We need to make a strong representation about this. This goes far beyond the workers.”
On being put to a vote 17 members supported the motion, however the two Alliance councillors voted against it.
It was also agreed that Coleraine Borough Council would write to the Minister outlining its concerns.