NewsNorthern Ireland

Orange hall gutted in sectarian attack

Northern IrelandBy Jamie McDowell
Ballytyrone Orange Hall which was burnt out during the night
Ballytyrone Orange Hall which was burnt out during the night

Ballytyrone Orange Hall in Loughgall, Armagh, has been gutted in what Sinn Fein has branded a "sectarian" and bigoted attack.

The fire was first reported at around 11.50pm on Thursday evening. 

Firefighters who attended the scene tried to quell the blaze, but the Orange hall was severely damaged. 

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness took to Twitter to condemn the attack.

DUP MLA William Irwin said: "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."

He added: "I have been a lifelong member of the lodge - and a past Worshipful Master - and I cannot understand the mindset of those who choose to stir up sectarian strife in what is a quiet mixed community who all get along very well. I appeal for cool heads at this time and plead for no retaliation.

"Despite my personal distress and that of our members at the scene of wanton destruction at Ballytyrone, I can assure the community that we will come back bigger and better from this cowardly and mindless attack on our hall."

Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge, Drew 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.”

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.