'A blatant display of sectarian hatred'

DUP First Minister Ian Paisley last night said he was deeply concerned about attacks on Orange halls which have the hallmarks of a blatant sectarian hate campaign against the Protestant community.

DUP First Minister Ian Paisley last night said

he was deeply concerned about attacks on

Orange halls which have the hallmarks of a blatant

sectarian hate campaign against the

Protestant community.

Following a visit to Ballyworkan in Upper

Bann, the scene of a weekend attack – and a

meeting with Security Minister Paul Goggins –

he said: "This is not a simple matter of vandalism.

It is a blatant display of sectarian hatred

against the heart of a community.

"This behaviour should not be tolerated by

any element within our society.

"It must be unreservedly condemned."

The MP said "individuals who are intent on

stirring up sectarian division" were responsible

and must not succeed.

These people had "a deep-seeded hatred for all

things Protestant" but are a minority, he said.

The incidents – nearly 30 this year – come at a

time when the Orange Order has embarked

upon a programme of education to deal with the

misconstrued ideas about the Order, he added.

He said: "The Northern Ireland Office also has

a significant role to play in the restoration of

Orange halls which suffer attack.

"These are clearly sectarian attacks but for

government compensation to be forthcoming

there must be a Chief Constable's Certificate.

"There are numerous halls around Northern

Ireland which are currently not fit for purpose

because of sectarian attacks yet compensation

is slow and in some cases non-existent.

"This is a reserved (Westminster] matter and I

would call on the Secretary of State to take the

action which the DUP has long advised.

"There are a number of mechanisms which

would streamline the compensation process.

This has been under consideration for a number

of months but the time has come for action.

"Orange halls are a focal point in their communities.

The use of Orange halls extends well

beyond Loyal Order activities.

"I have discussed these issues with the

Security Minister and I look forward to the NIO

delivering on this matter which demands

urgent attention."

DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots said

nationalists and republican representatives had

a responsibility to address the issue, not just in

statements of condemnation but in actual on

the ground backing.