A senior Orangeman says the Institution is “devastated” after a Co Armagh Orange hall was destroyed in an apparent overnight arson attack.
Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, was speaking following the deliberate fire at Ballytyrone Orange hall in Loughgall.
The Creenagh Road property was gutted after flammable liquid was poured into the rural building late on Thursday evening.
Mr Nelson said: “The Orange Institution is devastated that another Orange hall has been destroyed in an overnight arson attack.
“This is the nearest isolated Orange hall to Loughgall where we only opened a new museum, and educational and outreach centre, earlier this week.”
“Clearly there are still some in Northern Ireland society who are prepared to use violence to attack the Orange Institution. However, we can assure everyone that this hall will be rebuilt, probably bigger and better than it was before.
“We would appeal for anyone with any information in relation to this arson attack to bring it to police as a matter of urgency.”
He added: “We would also make an appeal for calm right across the community, and in particular that there should be no retaliation whatsoever for this attack. We, as an Institution, would not wish any community to suffer from such violence, having sustained so many attacks on our properties over the years.”
DUP MLA William Irwin, a member and recent past master of the lodge, was one of the first at the scene and called this a ‘despicable sectarian attack’:
“Lodge and band members will be absolutely devastated when they find out what has happened to their hall. I was alerted to the attack a short time after our members had finished our monthly meeting and it was a shock to return to the hall to see it so badly damaged.
“Orange halls are more than just building - they are an integral part of the community, so to loose our meeting place and our resource here is certainly a concern. When Orange halls are attacked the community is attacked and that is the reality of the sectarian actions of the individuals who carried out this disgraceful act.”
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Right Reverend Dr Ian McNie, also condemned the attack.
Calling for respect and tolerance of one another’s traditions, Dr McNie said:
“The attack on this Orange Hall is not just a senseless sectarian attack on one particular community’s tradition, but an assault on all traditions and has no place in the Northern Ireland we all want to see.
“I deplore this and any attack on any property belonging to any group in our community, especially at this time as we approach the Twelfth of July itself, and pray that those who did this come to their senses and understand the hurt they have caused and the wrong they have done.”
Dr. McNie also appealed for anyone with any information to pass it on to the Police Service.
Police received a report that the hall was on fire at around 11.50pm last night, and released the following statement:
“Firefighters attended and extinguished the blaze, however, the hall has been extensively damaged as a result.
“Inspector Lynsey Barr has appealed for anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Creenagh Road area on Thursday evening or who has any information in relation to this incident to call officers in Armagh on 101 quoting reference 1550020715 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”