Magilligan replacement being decided on “biased criteria”?

An interesting note from the NI Affairs Committee, who are currently taking evidence in their review of The Northern Ireland Prison Service and, specifically, a replacement for Magilligan Prison – which is, of course, a reserved matter. According to the BBC report, the Committee’s Chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack, whilst questioning the use of “biased criteria”, has revealed that a senior prison official told the committee one of the essential criteria was that the new jail was within 30 miles of Belfast.. which would rule out rebuilding at Magilligan. That’s despite the fact that the review was welcomed in February by the Prison Service – “As part of our Strategic Development Programme the Prison Service is looking at possible locations for the replacement prison, including the existing site at Magilligan.” And that, as well the review of a replacement for Magilligan Prison being announced back in September 2005, in January this year, as noted on Slugger, the NI Prison Service acknowledged that the Independent Monitoring Board’s recommendation was Adds To clarify, the following quote is from the statement by Director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Robin Masefield, in which he states

“The condition of the physical estate at Magilligan Prison was a major issue for the Board, which has recommended that a new facility should be built on the Magilligan site. We have accepted that there is a need for a replacement prison and much work is in hand to take forward the Service’s estate strategy. Ministers hope to be in a position to indicate the way forward shortly.”