£700,000 to be spent to implement Maghaberry deal

Image caption, Dissident republican prisoners staged a four-month protest in Maghaberry Prison

About £700,000 is to be spent implementing an agreement that ended the dirty protest by republican prisoners at Maghaberry prison.

The four-month protest ended in August when prisoners were granted a new search facility and other measures.

The prisoners said the protest was over issues including strip searching and restricted movement.

DUP assembly member Paul Givan who obtained the figures said the money could have been better spent.

"I think the public will be shocked at these figures and won't be happy with them," he said.

"I have two main concerns, one that we have a two-tier system in Maghaberry where the separated regime has had privileges enhanced, and that to me is taking a step towards what the Maze prison was like, and that is somewhere we do not want to go to.

"The other issue is the public concern about this amount of money being spent on a very small number of individuals within Maghaberry prison when we can't get the money for new schools and we're struggling to fund hospitals."

The dispute at Maghaberry started when around 30 dissident republicans barricaded themselves into the canteen on Easter Sunday.

It ended in August when the majority of the prisoners' demands were met, including less restricted movement and concessions on strip searching.

To facilitate this, a new search facility has been introduced and modifications are being made to the prison exercise yards, as well as additional security for astroturf pitches.

The total cost of the modifications is about £550,000.

Providing the additional staff needed because of changes to the regime within the republican wing will cost £75,000, and another £45,000 was spent to clean up the mess made during the protest.

In a statement, the NI Prison Service defended the agreement, saying it had brought to an end a highly volatile situation.

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