AN Orange Order war memorial - destroyed last month in an attack - has been replaced following a dedication service in Coleraine.
Vandals smashed a memorial stone outside Killowen Orange Hall and shredded poppy wreaths during the early hours of Saturday, May 11.
The tribute by Killowen Purple Heroes LOL 930 was originally dedicated several years ago in memory of all those from the locality who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars.
The new memorial tablet was unveiled by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, exactly seven weeks since the desecration incident and on the eve of the annual Battle of the Somme commemorations.
Addressing assembled brethren and sisters as part of the dedication service the senior Orangeman paid tribute to Lodge members for their “resolve and determination”, ensuring the swift restoration of the war tribute.
Mr Stevenson said: “All war memorials should be sacrosanct and such desecration is an insult not only to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in two World Wars, but also the wider community in Coleraine.
“Although this memorial stone was set within the confines of an Orange Hall, it does not distinguish and remembers all those who served in the theatres of war, regardless of background.
“This area has a proud military history with soldiers from both traditions standing united, fighting valiantly on the front line for the freedoms we take for granted today.”
The Grand Master continued: “Attacks on our Orange halls and other symbolic buildings are an insidious form of sectarianism – however, the violation of a war memorial goes beyond the pale and is abhorrent.
“We hope – by our very presence here this evening – we are sending the culprits an unequivocal and resounding message. Those engaged in such depravity must not be allowed to succeed and we will not let them.”
Also speaking at the event, Coleraine District Master George Duddy insisted despite the “wanton vandalism”, local brethren would continue to honour and remember the war dead.
He said: “Coleraine has changed dramatically over the last hundred years. Many of the streets where these men lived have long since been demolished. Many of the businesses in which they worked have ceased to trade. The names of the streets and businesses have been lost in the mists of time but the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice in two World Wars and all theatres of war since must never be forgotten.”
Mr Duddy added: “The attack at this hall was just the latest in a number of attacks on Orange Halls within Coleraine District in recent times. These attacks are sectarian hate crimes and the PSNI must devote more resources to apprehending those responsible and bring them before the courts.”
The dedication service, which was conducted by the Rev Joseph Andrews, was followed by a short parade.