Prison officers fighting the potential closure of Magilliganprison have taken their campaign to Stormont.

Members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) handed a petition of 5,500 signatures to Justice Minister David Ford on the steps of Parliament Buildings calling for the future of the north west facility to be secured.

A proposal to close Magilligan and relocate the jail closer to Belfast made by a review team which examined the prisonservice estate in Northern Ireland is currently being considered by Mr Ford.

The minister has insisted the consultation on the issue is open and has indicated that Magilligan may be kept open, with a potential reconfiguration of the inmate population.

Magilligan houses an estimated 500 low to medium risk male prisoners, with most serving sentences of six years or lower. About 350 prison officers work there.

Finlay Spratt, chair of the POA in Northern Ireland, who led his colleagues to Parliament Buildings, said closing Magilligan would be the wrong decision.

“If you are going to make a decision to shut you have to have economic reasons for it and he (Mr Ford) hasn’t produced any economic reasons or any justification,” he said.

Mr Spratt added: “Magilligan has played a very important role in the penal system and really they need to get on and redevelop Magilligan, and I believe that is cost effective.”

Mr Ford is due to make an interim statement on the prison service review to the Assembly next week, with a final decision on Magilligan due early next year.

“This is an open consultation,” he said after receiving the petition.

“There was a recommendation from the prison review team to close Magilligan and move the site closer to central population, but we are looking at all the options, including what options there might be to maintain a presence at Magilligan.

“What it won’t be is exactly what Magilligan currently does.”