Council minute’s silence for murdered prison officer

BALLYMONEY Borough Council has held a minute’s silence in memory of Mr David Black, the Prison Officer killed earlier this month.

The tribute was held during last Monday’s Full Council meeting before the Prison Officers’ Association made a presentation over the prospective closure of Miligiligan Prison.

At the meeting, the Mayor of Ballymoney Cllr Evelyne Robinson welcomed Nigel Lowe,, Finlay Spratt and Lenny Lucas from the Prison Officers’ Association before stating: “I, as I know you and citizens of this borough, were greatly shocked at the callous murder on 1st November of Prison Officer David Black, a citizen of Cookstown.

“On my own behalf and on behalf of this council and our citizens I express condemnation of the callous and dastardly deed. This is a terrible human tragedy and the thoughts and prayers go out to Mr Black’s colleagues at Maghaberry Prison and the Mayor, Council and citizens of Cookstown.

“I have written to the Chief Officer of Magherberry Prison and asked that our condolences of the Council be conveyed to the bereaved family. I have also written to the Chairman of Cookstown District Council.”

In response Cllr John Finlay concurred with Cllr Robinson’s comments adding it was a ‘horrendous murder’.

Accepting the tribute, Mr Spratt, Chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association thanked members for their kind words explaining that it was a tragic loss of a colleague and ‘a dastardly deed’. He added: “We thought such acts were behind us but that’s just the life and times that prison officers still suffer.

“Under these circumstances we do not want to be here but we have to carry on.”

Mr Spratt then addressed members of the Council about the Association’s campaign to prevent the closure of Magilligan, Northern Ireland’s second largest jail

He outlined the 2007 plans to redevelop the prison and questioned why there had been a u-turn with plans now involving relocating it nearer to Belfast.

Mr Spratt said Magilligan Prison was important for inmates and staff in the north west and its closure would result in some job losses including ones in Ballymoney and the surrounding area.

He highlighted the extensive costs to taxpayers and criticised the rational of the ‘decision-makers’ adding ‘it does not make sense’.

In response Cllr John Finlay and Alderman Bill Kennedy and Frank Campbell were amongst members who spoke in support of Mr Spratt’s campaign.