Former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan has 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.”
To hear from Brian Keenan about his visit to Magilligan Prison, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKtYzjhWgks
Click on this link to hear Magilligan Prison Governor Andy Tosh highlight prisoners’ achievements in the Koestler Awards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7sl5CZiFw0