Orange hall hit by 'arson attack'
An Orange hall in west Belfast has been damaged in a suspected arson attack.
The blaze appears to have started when a wheelie bin was placed against the back door of the Whiterock hall off the Springfield Road and set alight overnight. Significant damage was caused to the hallway and kitchen, as well as the door. There was also smoke damage throughout the property.
Orange Order Belfast County Grand Master George Chittick condemned the incident as a "hate crime" against the Protestant community.
"The faceless cowards who carried out this wicked deed under the cover of darkness are clearly attempting to whip up tensions ahead of the main parading season," he said. "They must not be allowed to succeed.
"Brethren in west Belfast, and particularly the members of Whiterock Temperance LOL 974, have made great strides to ensure this hall is a community facility for all and this attack was clearly carried out by people who have no respect or tolerance for a differing viewpoint.
"It is extremely fortunate that the hall was not completely destroyed and I would urge anyone with information to contact police immediately so that the culprits are brought to justice."
The Orange Order said the incident was the fourth arson attack on its property this year, following separate incidents in Fermanagh, Coleraine and north Belfast. A PSNI spokesman said: "It is believed at this stage that a plastic container was placed against an external metal door and set alight. The door was left damaged and further smoke damage was caused inside the building."
North Belfast DUP Assembly member William Humphrey said: "This was undoubtedly a sectarian attack. I am disgusted and outraged that a local Orange hall has been targeted and damaged in this way.
"This follows a pattern of certain republicans displaying their bigotry and intolerance by attacking Orange halls particularly in the run up to local parades. This hall is used extensively by the local community in the Highfield, Springmartin and West Circular Road area and this will be viewed as a deliberate attack on the local Protestant community.
"I would appeal for calm and for there to be no further incidents. It is important that there is clear and unambiguous condemnation of this attack from across the political spectrum. There must also be clear calls for information to be passed on to the police which will help bring the perpetrators to justice."