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Orange halls hit 132 times but no answer on the number of convictions

By Cate McCurry

Published 10/10/2016

Justice Minister Claire Sugden
Justice Minister Claire Sugden

More than 130 attacks on Orange halls have been reported in the last five years.

However, officials have refused to reveal the number of people who have been convicted, leading to accusations that a “careless attitude” is being taken on the issue.

Figures released by Justice Minister Claire Sugden show 132 attacks on Orange halls in the five years to March — one a fortnight on average.

The highest recorded was in 2013 when some 40 properties were targeted by vandals.

In the most recent 12-month period, 16 attacks were reported.

The figures were revealed after an Assembly question from TUV leader Jim Allister.

The Department of Justice said details of convictions would require a manual trawl through court records and this would be too costly.

But Mr Allister said it highlighted the inaction of bringing people to justice.

“Their claim to not know how many prosecutions there have been is indicative of a careless attitude to this, because it is only by deterrent sentences that issues such as this are stamped out,” he said.

“The department should be doing better than that and should make it their business.

“These figures show a systematic sectarian motivation to those perfecting this criminal damage.

“I can’t think of very many prosecutions of this kind — there might have been the odd sporadic arrest, but they are few and far between.

“I suspect the reason why they are so disinterested in the statistics is that they will be embarrassing in terms of the inaction in bringing people to justice.”

In August, senior representatives of the Orange Institution met the PSNI to express their concern at the number of attacks on halls.

It followed an arson attack on Salterstown Orange Hall in Co Londonderry.

Already this year there have been more than 20 crimes against Orange Order property across Northern Ireland.

In August, sectarian graffiti was sprayed on a hall in the Mullaghglass Road area of Lisburn.

It came just days after Flowerhill Orange Hall near Lisburn and Dungonnell Orange Hall at Crumlin were targeted in similar graffiti attacks just hours apart.

An Orange Order spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph sectarian attitudes must be challenged.

“These statistics provided by the Department of Justice clearly illustrate there remains a minority in Northern Ireland who are prepared to use violence to attack the Orange Institution and its property,” he said.

“There is an onus, not only on the police in terms of law and order, but also wider society, to confront such sectarian attitudes. The continual demonisation of the institution only serves to give credence to the moronic individuals responsible for such hate crime.”

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