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Arson attack destroys Orange hall

Police are treating a fire which destroyed an Orange Hall as arson.

It is believed flammable liquid was used to accelerate the blaze causing extensive damage to the property in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

Drew Nelson, grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said: "The Orange Institution is devastated that another Orange hall has been destroyed in an overnight arson attack.

"Clearly there are still some in Northern Ireland society who are prepared to use violence to attack the Orange Institution."

The hall would be rebuilt "bigger and better", Mr Nelson claimed.

Fire crews were called to the scene at Creenagh Road just before midnight and spent several hours extinguishing the flames.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the attack as disgraceful.

He said on Twitter: "The destruction of Ballytyrone Orange Hall in Co Armagh is a disgrace. I unreservedly condemn it. Those responsible are sectarian bigots."

The Orange Order has appealed for no retaliation.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Inspector Lynsey Barr has asked anyone who was in the area and noticed suspicious activity last night to contact officers on the non emergency 101 number.

Ulster Unionist MLA for the area Danny Kennedy said the arson attack was designed to whip up sectarian tensions.

He said: "This is a hate crime which should be condemned by all right-thinking people.

"The wanton destruction caused to this hall will cause huge hurt and disappointment to the members of the local lodge, but ultimately they will rebuild and restore the hall so that it is better than ever."

Mr Kennedy has appealed for the PSNI to step up patrols near Orange Halls to prevent further attacks.

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