Attacks on Orange halls 'are bid to stoke tensions'
Daubing of graffiti on two buildings was coordinated, claims Order
Graffiti attacks on two Orange halls in the Banbridge area are the latest in a series of attempts to incite sectarian tensions in the community, it has been claimed.
In the early hours of yesterday morning, republican slogans were daubed and paint splashed on Tanvally and Corbet Orange Halls in Co Down.
The Orange Order said the incidents at the buildings, which are just under five miles apart, were coordinated.
There have now been 12 recorded attacks on Orange halls this year.
Just last weekend, a case of arson was reported on Muckery Orange Hall in Co Armagh.
An Orange Order spokesman said: "These were clearly coordinated and deliberate criminal acts against the Orange Institution and what it stands for. The mindless morons responsible for such callous sectarianism ought to be ashamed of their actions and must be held accountable."
"Their sinister exploits are in no way reflective of the excellent community relations in the Banbridge area - the members of both lodges are particularly active in their locality.
"The entire community must now unite in condemnation of these incidents.
"This double attack is particularly sickening, coming on the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
"Such cowardly crime is in stark contrast to the gallant bravery shown by those who paid the supreme sacrifice 100 years ago."
South Down Ulster Unionist MLA Harold McKee said the perpetrators of the sectarian attacks must not be allowed to stoke community tensions.
"It is particularly sad that as we pause today to commemorate the centenary of the sacrifice of thousands of Ulstermen and Irishmen at the Somme, we have people in our society who use that hard-won freedom to create fear and division," Mr McKee added.
"The people responsible for this have one agenda - to whip up community tensions and create divisions, which they can then exploit further."
DUP MLA Jim Wells said: "To have graffiti daubed on the walls stating slogans like 'CIRA' is sinister and deeply upsetting for the whole community and those people who use the halls on a regular basis.
"It is particularly sickening to see this type of attack on a day in which we remember and commemorate those who paid the supreme sacrifice and fought at the Somme 100 years ago for our freedom.
"People from both sides of the community fought together, side-by-side, and today we should be uniting together in remembrance."
Seamus Doyle, an SDLP councillor for the area, told the Belfast Telegraph the vandalism stood in stark contrast to the normally strong cross-community relations in Banbridge.
"I very much condemn the attacks," he added. "They don't really represent the people because it's a good, mixed community that enjoys good relations, and the people of the area would be against anything like this.
"Even throughout the Troubles, people here lived together in peace and respected each other's identity."