Call for Orange volunteers to end attacks

A CALL has been made on the Orange volunteers to cease attacks on Catholic-owned property.

In a statement to the News Letter, the so-called "military operational command of the South East Antrim Brigade of the Orange Volunteers" claimed responsibility for the attacks on Catholic property in Rasharkin, Dunloy, Ballymoney and surrounding areas.

In a telephone call to the News Letter, the male caller, who also gave a codeword, said: "Our past warnings have been ignored.

"Attacks on Orange halls and the property of Protestant people must now stop. Do not ignore this warning.

"Through our intelligence we now know some of the people responsible for these attacks. Our operations are now at the next level.

"To the people who carried out these attacks remember when you go out you might not be alone."

DUP North Antrim MLA Ian Paisley Jnr called on the group to desist from its activities.

"I am gravely disappointed with this statement and I condemn all criminal behaviour regardless of its origin," he said.

"I appeal to those involved in this grouping to draw back from the brink and cease their illegal activity.

"They are not representing the law-abiding Protestant people of North Antrim nor are they advancing the Protestant cause.

"The Protestant people in Rasharkin, Dunloy and many other parts of Northern Ireland are enduring systematic intimidation on a daily basis, however a vigilante group is not the means to solve these problems.

"I know and understand the frustrations in these areas, however getting involved in tit-for-tat attacks will simply increase tensions and lead to an escalation in attacks."

He said the attacks were "illogical".

"I do not understand the logic of these individuals. Burning down Roman Catholic property is not going to stop the attacks on Protestant property or families.

"What the loyalist people need is a strategy and not a reaction. The DUP is offering a strategy and leadership for the people in these communities so that divisions can be healed and all attacks stopped.

"The Protestant people of North Antrim want to be able to live normal lives free from attacks on any section of the community."

The Orange Volunteers emerged during the 1998 Drumcree conflict when the RUC and the British Army prevented members of the Portadown Orange Order and their supporters from returning to the town centre down the Garvaghy Road.

The group is believed to be made up of dissident loyalists who disapprove of the Northern Ireland peace process.

In recent weeks a male caller purporting to be from the Orange Volunteers also called the News Letter threatening attacks on Catholic property.

In the previous statement they said they would be "monitoring attacks on Orange halls and other buildings".

A PSNI spokesman last night said: "While attacks by vandals on the property of any cultural or sporting organisation should not be tolerated, nor should threats of violence or retaliation.

"The best response is for all right-thinking members of the community to condemn the incidents and to give police the evidence we need to bring the culprits to justice through legitimate means."

The call from the Orange Volunteers came after an Orange hall in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, was damaged on Sunday night.

In the early hours of Sunday a number of Catholic-owned business premises were attacked in Garvagh, Co Londonderry.

A total of 20 windows were broken at a butcher's shop, a cafe, a hotel and a public house on Main Street between 3am and 3.30am. In an attack at an Orange hall in Rasharkin on Friday night, scorch damage was caused after a fire was started in front of the building.

An Ancient Order of Hibernians hall in Ballymoney was also damaged by graffiti.