Long applauds ‘Hidden Heroes’ supporting prisoners and community during Covid

Date published: 29 September 2020


Justice Minister Naomi Long has praised prison officers across Northern Ireland for their initiatives to support prisoners and the wider community during the Covid Pandemic.

Justice Minister Naomi Long is pictured with Magilligan Prison Governor Richard Taylor, Senior Officer Wendy Graham and Rev David Latimer from Londonderry First Presbyterian Church in the Sewing Bee Hub at Magilligan Prison, where prisoners have been busy

Highlighting the ‘Hidden Heroes’ of the Prison Service, Minister Long described their efforts in recent months as ‘inspiring and motivating’.

Among initiatives developed by Prison Staff during Covid has been the ‘Sewing Bee’ project at Magilligan Prison, where prisoners make personal protection equipment (PPE) for Health and Social Care staff and care home staff.

More than 2,000 pieces including scrubs and facemasks, isolation gowns and wash bags have been produced by the prisoners in recent months.

From patterns and material sourced by staff, around a dozen prisoners cut, sew, press and individually package the various PPE items which are then distributed to HSC and care-home staff throughout Northern Ireland.

Speaking after a visit to the ‘Sewing Bee Hub’ in Magilligan, Naomi Long said: “A lot of good work has been done by the Northern Ireland Prison Service during the coronavirus pandemic, not alone to keep people in their care safe but to help others in the community.

“Supporting and challenging prisoners is what Prison Service staff do on a daily basis, but their ideas and enthusiasm for new initiatives which also support the community during this crisis have been inspiring and motivating. They really have been hidden heroes throughout the pandemic.”

Magilligan Prison Governor Richard Taylor said: “Our officers got the Sewing Bee project up and running after an appeal by the Rev David Latimer, now retired, from Londonderry First Presbyterian Church, for the prison to help the community in any way during the Covid pandemic.

“The staff assisted prisoners in sourcing patterns and material for various pieces of PPE which are cut, stitched, pressed and individually packaged. They’re then collected by NI Scrubs and delivered to various HSC and care-home staff throughout Northern Ireland.

“It’s been a very worthwhile and satisfying project for both our staff and prisoners and as the pandemic continues so too will our work to support the community.”

To learn more about the Sewing Bee project at Magilligan Prison click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqPFrJTApBg

Notes to editors: 

  1. 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.
  2. AT 24 September 2020 there were 402 prisoners at Magilligan Prison.
  3. Hidden Heroes Day is being held across the UK on 29th September to acknowledge and celebrate the work of prison staff through the coronavirus pandemic.  Learn more at www.hiddenheroes.uk
  4. Press queries should be directed to the DoJ Press Office via email at press.office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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