Northern Ireland

Maghaberry prisoners make braille Bible

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Media captionDave Cunningham (pictured with Pastor Brian Madden) said he was overwhelmed by what the prisoners had achieved

Sixty-six books, almost 1,200 chapters and 775,000 words - all in braille.

What makes this Bible all the more extraordinary is that it was put together by prisoners in Northern Ireland's largest jail.

The inmates who worked on the Bible included the double murderer Colin Howell.

He is serving a minimum of 21 years for killing his ex-wife Lesley and Trevor Buchanan, who was the husband of his former lover Hazel Stewart.

George was one of the other inmates in Maghaberry Prison who worked on the project.

"I found it extremely satisfying. It has helped my own self-esteem enormously. It means I can give something back to the community," he said.

"Hopefully I will find a career working with braille, if there is such a thing in this little province of ours."

The charity Helping Hands suggested making the Bible eight months ago.

Now the books have been handed over to Maghaberry Elim Church, where it will be used by Dave Cunningham, a member who is visually impaired.

"It means now that I can participate in the Bible readings in the church and I can contribute," he said.

"I'm overwhelmed by it. It's wonderful, I really appreciate the effort these guys have put into it."

Image caption About 10 inmates work in the Braille unit in Maghaberry

Pastor Brian Madden from the church said he was blown away when he first saw the volume of books.

"The Bible pages are so thin and I believe every page in the braille Bible is 160 grams, so I was glad to hear the guys say they'll deliver them to the church rather than me take them with me," he said.

About 10 inmates work in the braille unit in Maghaberry.

Prisoners in Northern Ireland began making braille books in Crumlin Road jail in the 1920s.

Recently, they have been making braille editions of novels for children - and other items like maps of Dublin.

The director general of the Prison Service, Sue McAllister, said it gives inmates skills which could help them on the outside.

Image caption The prisoners also made this Braille version of a map of Dublin

"Now we've got IT, we've got computers, we've got software and it allows us to give prisoners transferable skills," she said.

"They can use them when they go out to give them a better chance of accessing employment, so this is a really positive good news story on all sorts of levels for us."