Retired woman heads prison service
A woman has come out of retirement to become the new director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
Sue McAllister, 51, from South Yorkshire, who takes up her job on July 3, has been chosen to press ahead with major changes to an out-of-date regime which costs £140 million a year to run.
She admitted: "I do not underestimate the scale of the reform programme that will be delivered over the next few years, one of the most challenging undertaken by the public sector anywhere in the United Kingdom."
Mrs McAllister has 25 years of experience in the prison service, including working as a governor at HMP Gartree and Onley young offenders centre at a time when she was in charge of complex change management projects.
Her last job was as head of the Public Sector Bids Unit in the Ministry of Justice before taking early retirement in August last year.
But Justice Minister David Ford clearly believes Northern Ireland's first female director general is the right person for the £100,000-a-year post.
She will arrive in Belfast following an agreement between the prison officers association on new working arrangements - a hugely significant element of the reform programme which also involves plans to reduce staffing levels and cut the prison budget by £16m over the next four years. The first of 200 newly recruited custody officers are expected to begin duties later this year.
Northern Ireland has three jails - two for men at Maghaberry, near Lisburn, Co Antrim and Magilligan, Co Londonderry, and one for women at Hydebank Wood, south Belfast, next door to a young offenders centre. There are 1,800 prisoners with almost the same number of staff.
Mrs McAllister replaces Colin McConnell who left after just 16 months to become head of the Scottish Prison Service.
She said it was a great privilege to lead the service through a period of fundamental reform: "I am confident that I can lead the prison service through this change programme and with the support of colleagues, the department and the minister, create a service with offender rehabilitation at its core which plays its part in building safer communities across Northern Ireland."