Maghaberry Community Centre extends the hand of friendship to offer a warm Christmas welcome to local residents

A Co Antrim village best known for being the home of Northern Ireland’s main jail is offering some warmth and Christmas cheer to locals feeling any festive pinch.

With the help of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) funding, a Maghaberry community group is helping ease the burden for people facing the cost of living crisis.

Maghaberry Community Centre, manager Tracey Crothers said: “Many times people hear the name Maghaberry and just think of the prison, but there is a high fence between us and the jail and that’s as close as we get.

“We have been providing community Christmas events for the 12 years I have been here and probably even more than that, but we would have really struggled this year without the funding from the council.

Maghaberry Community Centre spreads some Christmas cheer thanks to support from Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

“You can really see the effects that the cost of living crisis is having right here in our own community. The community spirit that was born out of the Covid pandemic is now becoming stronger as the whole community is being hit hard having to pay for heating and food.

“We have now opened up our community centre in the mornings as a heating hub for the elderly and young families to come in to keep warm and have a cup of tea and toast. We are now hoping to keep the centre open for lunches and dinners as well as the winter gets colder.“The council funds will also of course allow us to provide a parent and toddler party as well as a party for the seniors and special visit from Santa.”

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The council’s leisure and community development chairperson, Alliance councillor Aaron McIntyre said: “As a council we are conscious of the importance of the festive season to everyone and how each person celebrates in their own way.

“We have allocated £20,000 to 20 local community based groups to assist them in celebrating as a community this year.

“I would like to thank all the community groups for the time and effort they have put in to ensuring that this Christmas is a special time locally for all ages.”