23/04/2010

North's Justice Minister Quits Council

Prisons rather than matters of regional rates and community services will now fill the agenda for a long-serving Co Antrim councillor.

The newly installed Stormont Justice Minister, Alliance leader David Ford has confirmed that is to resign his Council seat to devote his energies to his new role.

He said that among the key issues in the Hillsborough agreement was a review of all prisons, and while Councillor Ford has said he will make good on his pledge to quit, he said it was a decision he took "with regret".

"I now believe that I should step down from Council to concentrate on my responsibilities in the Department of Justice. I do not believe that any Minister should also be a local councillor," he said.

"Back in 2001, I stepped down from the Council to concentrate on the Assembly.

"Sadly, the next year, the Assembly was suspended which was why I stood again for the Council in 2005 and was elected again with a further increased vote.

"I am happy that the Assembly is now in a much more stable position and contributing positively to life in Northern Ireland," he said.

Meanwhile, his pending review of the regime at Co Antrim's Maghaberry Prison has been announced.

Justice Minister David Ford said that he had advised the First Minister and Deputy First Minister that he intended "to initiate a rolling review".

The move came as Mr Ford outlined his priorities during his first meeting with the Assembly's Justice Committee.

Referring to the issues identified in the Hillsborough Agreement, which could be progressed by the Department of Justice, the Minister said: "Among the key issues referred to was a review of the conditions of detention, management and oversight of all prisons."

He said that the first part will review the sometimes controversial management of Maghaberry Prison.

(BMcC/GK)

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