Martin McGuinness blasts those responsible for suspected arson attack on Orange Hall as 'sectarian bigots'
Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has blasted those responsible for a suspected arson attack which gutted an Orange Hall in Co Armagh as "sectarian bigots".
Police in Armagh are investigating the suspected arson attack on Ballytyrone Orange Hall at Creenagh Road in Loughgall on Thursday night.
Police received a report that the hall was on fire at around 11.50pm.
Firefighters attended and extinguished the blaze however the hall has been extensively damaged as a result.
The Sinn Fein MLA took to Twitter on Friday morning and said: "The destruction of the Ballytyrone Orange Hall in Co Armagh is a disgrace. I unreservedly condemn it. Those responsible are sectarian bigots."
A senior Orangeman has said the Orange Order is “devastated” after a Co Armagh Orange hall was destroyed but called for calm and for no retaliation.
Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson said: “The Orange Institution is devastated that another Orange hall has been destroyed in an overnight arson attack.
“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.”
The destruction of Ballytyrone Orange Hall in Co.Armagh is a disgrace.I unreservedly condemn it.Those responsible are sectarian bigots.— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) July 3, 2015
He added: “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 William Irwin MLA is member and recent past master of the lodge and was one of the first to visit the scene at Ballytyrone during the night.
He said this was a "despicable sectarian attack" on a rural Orange Hall in a quiet country area.
"Lodge and band members will be absolutely devastated when they find out what has happened to their hall. I was alerted to the attack a short time after our members had finished our monthly meeting and it was a shock to return to the hall to see it so badly damaged."
"I have been a lifelong member of the lodge and a past Worshipful Master 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. Despite my personal distress and that of our members at the scene of wanton destruction at Ballytyrone I can assure the community that we will come back bigger and better from this cowardly and mindless attack on our hall."
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said that burning of the Ballytyrone Orange Hall was a "hate crime" and needs to be condemned.
He said: “Those people who deliberately targeted and destroyed an Orange Hall offer nothing to any community and do not represent the vast majority of people in the area who are disgusted by the attack.
“This was a sectarian hate crime, pure and simple, and sectarianism does not have any place in Republican ideology and needs to be opposed every time it raises its head.
“The Orange Hall was a community asset and should have been respected as such and I am sure the entire community will rally around in order to see this hall restored again as soon as possible.”
Inspector Lynsey Barr has appealed for anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Creenagh Road area on Thursday evening or who has any information in relation to this incident to call officers in Armagh on 101 quoting reference 1550020715 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.