I am aware of the Deputy’s concerns about the accommodation situation for prisoners in Maghaberry Prison.
Responsibility for Maghaberry rests with the Northern Ireland Prison Service, which is overseen by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice.
The Stocktake of the 2010 agreement between the NI Prison Service and the prisoners in the separated regime at Maghaberry was published in November 2014. A number of recommendations were made then, to be implemented within a period of six months. At the time, the Government’s view was that the full implementation of the Stocktake report offered an opportunity to create a conflict-free environment in the prison. This view was conveyed to the relevant Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials at the time and we continue to present this view in our ongoing contacts.
My officials at the Belfast Secretariat continue to engage with a range of parties to discuss, explore and encourage progress. Officials from the Belfast Secretariat have met with members of the panel reviewing education and training provision for separated prisoners in Maghaberry, and have also met the Governor of Maghaberry to discuss a range of issues.
My officials also remain in contact with the Criminal Justice Inspectorate for Northern Ireland. Their November 2018 report on conditions in Maghaberry noted that health and educational provision is improving and that levels of disorder and violence have fallen considerably, and that efforts are being made to establish why outcomes for Catholic prisoners are poorer than for the general prison population.
The cooperation of the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the prisoners themselves is essential to ensuring satisfactory outcomes in Maghaberry. I would encourage all with influence in this area to move forward in a constructive manner. The restoration of the Executive and the appointment of a Minister for Justice would also be of great assistance in addressing the issues facing Northern Irish prisons.