Belfast Telegraph

MLA's unease as second Magilligan inmate dies in space of five months

By Allan Preston

An investigation has been launched following the death of a 27-year-old inmate at Magilligan Prison.

The man's next-of-kin have been informed and a probe has been launched by the PSNI, coroner and the Prisoner Ombudsman in line with standard procedure.

The prisoner died yesterday morning.

Ronnie Armour, head of the Prison Service, said: "I would like to extend my sympathy and that of the Northern Ireland Prison Service to the family of the prisoner.

"My thoughts are with them at this difficult time."

Opened in 1976 on the site of a former Army camp, medium security Magilligan houses around 550 male prisoners.

The man was the second prisoner to die in Magilligan this year.

A 44-year-old passed away in March.

Local SDLP MLA John Dallat expressed his sympathies to the family.

He said: "Clearly, I support the investigation into this latest death.

"When people are in custody we expect them to be safe, and certainly it must be extremely distressing for the family.

"I've tabled questions to the Assembly in the past about Magilligan, because in my opinion staffing levels were dangerously inadequate, particularly at weekends.

"With staff shortages in the Prison Service and in other areas like the Fire Service, it's a very good reason why Assembly Members sitting in their constituency offices should be taking an interest in these affairs.

"There will be a keen interest to see what happened to this person, and I extend my sympathy to the family.

"If it relates to a shortage of staff, stress within the system, then we need to know.

"It's unacceptable that so many people here have lost their lives in prison.

"It's deplorable and something you would associate with a Third World country.

"I've visited Magilligan in the past, there are good things happening there now, making this all the more disappointing. It's not the plan anybody had."

Over 40 deaths have been recorded in Northern Ireland prisons in the last 10 years, with the majority occurring in crisis-hit Maghaberry in Co Antrim.

Last year six prisoners died in Maghaberry, with three in November alone. In May this year a 38-year-old remand prisoner at Maghaberry also lost his life.

Speaking at the time, Adrian Smith, chair of the Prison Officers' Association, said at least 175 new warders were needed to keep inmates safe.

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