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Arlene Foster visits attacked Tyrone Orange hall

Published 19/02/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
A door damaged in the attack
General view of the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
General view of the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
First Minister Arlene Foster surveys the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
General view of the damage at Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone. Picture by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.
Strawletterdallon Orange hall, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone / Press Eye.

First Minister Arlene Foster has visited a Co Tyrone Orange hall which has been the subject of two sectarian attacks in the past week.

More windows were smashed on the front of Strawletterdallon Hall on Thursday night following a similar attack earlier this week.

Police are treating the damage as a sectarian hate crime.

On Friday, Arlene Foster visited the hall, viewed the damage and spoke with members of the lodge.

The DUP leader said: "This is not my first visit to this hall. I attended an event here recently where I was impressed at improvements made by the lodge to the hall following previous attacks on it.

"Strawletterdallon is a prime example of how many Orange halls are community hubs, particularly in rural areas. This is an attack on the entire community and I welcome the strong words from many different quarters in response to it.

"It is important though that such solidarity is not just displayed in the aftermath of an attack.

"We regularly see opposition to Loyal Order parades. Its members are often described as sectarian and as bigots.

"Alongside the rightful condemnation of attacks on property we need to hear condemnation of such verbal attacks on the institution and its members also.

"The Orange Institution is a valuable part of the fabric of life in Northern Ireland and we should all send out a message that attacks on its property or members are simply unacceptable."

In 2011, the hall suffered scorch damage in an attempted arson attack.

Members of a local male choir who were congregating at the rural Plumbridge Road building on Wednesday evening discovered the latest damage.

An Orange Order spokesman condemned the latest incident, stating a hate crime had now become a "hate campaign" against the local Protestant community.

He called for a greater and more noticeable police presence in the area to deter such criminal activities, and prevent further and more serious damage to the rural property.

"Given the similarities with the previous attack, there is little doubt that the perpetrators have reverted to type and once again, under the cover of darkness, brazenly reengaged in their wicked deeds. The sheer audacity of these criminals knows no bounds," he said.

"Despite such destructive sectarian behaviour, the Orange fraternity in and around Newtownstewart will not be deterred by a minority rump whose futile activities are not representative of the wider community. We urge those responsible to think again and immediately desist.

"It's a shame that a building, primarily associated with a Christian organisation, could provoke such hatred in the minds of a minority who have nothing positive to offer society."

West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan added: "This is an attack on an important rural community facility. It is an unfortunate reality that those who agitate against Loyal Order parades and seek to demonise the Orange institution help create a climate where others feel justified to attack property."

It is the first reported attack on Orange property this year.

Nine halls were targeted in 2015, including Ballytyrone Orange hall, Loughgall, which was destroyed by arsonists.

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