Former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan visits Magilligan Prison

Date published: 18 December 2019

Former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan has visited Magilligan Prison to speak with prisoners about his experiences in the Middle East and his life since.

Former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan visited Magilligan Prison to speak with prisoners about his experiences in the Middle East and his life since.

Over 33 years ago, on April 11, 1986, the Belfast native was captured by terror group Islamic Jihad in Lebanon. He spent four-and-a-half years in a concrete cell - often in solitary confinement, blind-folded, interrogated, chained half-naked and beaten by his captors.

But life today for the writer and broadcaster, living happily with his family, couldn’t be further from the kidnapping ordeal he endured.

Earlier this week Brian was guest speaker at the presentation of creative writing awards to prisoners in Magilligan.

Welcoming Brian Keenan to Magilligan Prison, Ronnie Armour, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, said:  “Brian’s philosophical outlook on life is truly inspiring and especially so after an inconceivable four-and-a-half year kidnapping ordeal. He has spoken about surviving the odds and finding peace of mind in surprising places, and his words will have given great hope and encouragement to the men in our care. This is all about building self-esteem in prisoners, supporting and challenging them to change which in turn will help reduce re-offending and ultimately make our community a safer place to live.”

Dr Damian O’Kane, Head of Education at the Magilligan campus of NWRC said: “We are delighted that students in Magilligan have been awarded an unprecedented number of Koestler Awards in Creative Writing, Art and Barbering. It is fitting that Brian Keenan, who is a truly inspirational figure and a strong advocate of the power of education to transform lives, has shared his life experiences with our students and thereby encouraging them to continue on their educational journey.

Fred Caulfield, Executive Director of the Prison Arts Foundation, said: “Creative arts has an important role to play in rehabilitation. Many offenders – and ex-offenders – who participate in the Koestler Awards find it a rewarding experience and the written feedback they receive from judges boosts self-esteem and confidence.”

 Hear from Brian Keenan about his visit to Magilligan Prison, 

Hear Magilligan Prison Governor Andy Tosh highlight prisoners’ achievements in the Koestler Awards:

Notes to editors: 

  1. Brian Keenan is an Irish writer whose work includes the book An Evil Cradling, an account of the four and a half years he spent as a hostage in Beirut, Lebanon from 11 April 1986 to 24 August 1990.
  2. Platinum, gold, silver and bronze Koestler Awards were presented to prisoners for their creative writing, art and barbering works.
  3. Magilligan Prison is a medium to low security prison which holds male prisoners with six years or less to serve and who meet the relevant security classification.
  4. At 17 December 2019 there were 446 prisoners at Magilligan Prison.
  5. Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DoJ Press Office on telephone number 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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