JUSTICE Minister David Ford has announced on Tuesday that a new jail is to be built on the current site of Magilligan prison.
A prison review team appointed by the Minister said Magilligan Prison should be shut down and a new one jail should be built in a more central location.
One suggestion for the location was in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
However, on Tuesday Mr Ford said he has now rejected that advice and decided to construct a new jail on the Limavady site in Co Derry/Londonderry.
The project is part of a new £200m strategy for prisons announced by Justice Minister David Ford.
Magilligan prison will remain open while the building work takes place over the seven years needed to complete the project.
“From the outset I have been consistently clear that my decision regarding its future needs to be based on what is best for the people of Northern Ireland in terms of enhancing public safety through reducing offending,” Mr Ford said.
“In November, I indicated that I was inclined towards retaining a prison on the Magilligan site, subject to evidence being provided that issues concerning rehabilitation and family links could be adequately addressed.
“I am now convinced that there is a case for the retention of Magilligan.”
Mr Ford also confirmed that work will also take place at Northern Ireland’s high security prison at Maghaberry, near Lisburn, which houses loyalist and republican inmates.
Maghaberry will become three separate facilities dealing with different categories of offenders housed in the sprawling Co Antrim site.
Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast will also be refurbished.
As part of the refurbishment plans, there will be a new facility for women prisoners currently held within Hydebank.
The DUP’s Gegory Campbell said the employment of more than 400 prison staff – as well as jobs in the construction industry – were big factors in wanting to keep a jail at Magilligan.
“It is the Northern Ireland Prison Service. It’s not the greater Belfast prison service,” said the East Londonderry MP.
“There are a number of facilities in the greater Belfast area and it is important that prisoners and families and others have employment and visiting opportunities outside the greater Belfast area,” he said.