Pleas for no retaliation after rural Orange hall wrecked by blaze

Drew Nelson
Drew Nelson

There have been calls for no acts of retaliation after an Orange hall was badly damaged in Co Armagh in a suspected arson attack.

Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady turned up in person to inspect the damage and voice “revulsion” after the attack.

Fifty lodges from the Republic will take part in the Rossnowlagh parade

Fifty lodges from the Republic will take part in the Rossnowlagh parade

The Ballytyrone Orange hall, in Creenagh Road in Loughgall, Co Armagh, was reported to be on fire at around 11.50pm on Thursday.

The blaze was extinguished but police said the hall had been “extensively” damaged.

Its windows are broken and much of the small single-storey building’s roof has now gone.

The fire brigade said two fire engines were sent, and the incident was declared over shortly after 1am.

They are treating it as a deliberate blaze, and the PSNI also said that they suspect the cause to be arson.

It is the third Orange Hall to be destroyed since the Twelfth last year, after two buildings in Co Donegal (in Newtowncunningham and Convoy) were deliberately destroyed.

In total 20 halls have been attacked since last year, including Belfast’s Clifton Street hall earlier this week.

In a statement reacting to the news, Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary of the order, believes flammable liquid had been poured inside and then ignited.

“The Orange Institution is devastated that another Orange hall has been destroyed in an overnight arson attack,” he said.

“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.

“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 for Newry and Armagh William Irwin is a member of the lodge, and one of its past masters.

He said the lodge sat “in a quiet country area and said lodge and band members (many of whom are not even aware of the situation yet) will be absolutely devastated when they find out what has happened to their hall”.

He said: “I have been a lifelong member of the lodge 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.”

Danny Kennedy, UUP MLA for the same area, said the attack was “designed to whip up tensions in the run up to the Twelfth”.

Sinn Fein also condemned the attack, dubbing it “sectarian”.