Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to outgoing NI Prison Service director general as he leaves for new post

Ronnie Armour (right) with Maghaberry Prison governor David Savage.
Ronnie Armour (right) with Maghaberry Prison governor David Savage. Ronnie Armour (right) with Maghaberry Prison governor David Savage.

THE outgoing head of the Northern Ireland Prison Service has been praised for his "competent and compassionate" leadership as he departs for a new senior civil service role.

Ronnie Armour has now officially stepped down as director general of the prison service, and is understood to have been appointed deputy permanent secretary at Stormont's Department of Education.

His departure was announced in May as part of a civil service shake-up.

Mr Armour, who was also appointed director of reducing offending in 2017 by the Department of Justice, began his civil service career in 1983, and before moving to oversee prisons had been head of the NI Courts and Tribunals Service.

Before becoming director general of the prison service, he had also served as its director of human resources.

During his time as prison service chief, Mr Armour faced issues including a critical report by a team form agencies including Criminal Justice Inspection NI, which identified a "serious drug problem" at Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim.

In a statement issued on social media last Friday, a NI Prison Service spokesperson said of Mr Armour: "He has led the service through many challenges, including the pandemic, and built a confident, competent and compassionate organisation."

They added: "Thank you for your leadership over the past six years and all the best for the future."

Among wellwishers to comment on the departure were the north's Commissioner Designate for Victims of Crime, Geraldine Hanna, and former director of Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, Brian Ingram, who said in a tweet: "Thank you for your great leadership, values and legacy for the prison service to follow."

A spokesperson for the POA union for prison, correctional and secure psychiatric workers said it had been a "pleasure" working with Mr Armour, adding: "He was always very professional and on behalf of the POA I wish him well in his new role."

Read more: Serious drug problem at Maghaberry Prison highlighted by inspectors