Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order claims leaders are being targeted by 'republicans determined to suppress Orangeism'

BY LINDA STEWART

The Orange Order has claimed that its members and property are being deliberately targeted following a number of weekend attacks.

Paint was thrown on the outside walls of the Robert L Mitchell Memorial Hall, at Downshire Road in Newry in the early hours of Saturday morning

The culprits then apparently removed roof tiles and used newspapers in an attempt to set the building alight. Fire damage was contained to a concrete floor.

Meanwhile, a flag was stolen and graffiti daubed on a wall at the home of Coleraine District Master and DUP councillor George Duddy on Saturday night.

A similar attack was carried out on the home of a leading bandsman in the same area of rural Coleraine.

The Orange Order said four senior brethren have now had their homes targeted in the past three weeks.

A spokesman said: “These deliberate attacks have occurred over the period of the last three weeks with all four members holding office at District level or above.

“Given such a coincidence, it seems we can draw no other conclusion that these individuals are being targeted solely because of their membership of the Orange Institution.

“Republicans have a long track record of attacking Orange property – however, these personal attacks on local Orange leaders clearly demonstrate they are determined to suppress Orangeism in an even more sinister way.

“We would call for an immediate end to such criminal activity and trust the police will bring those responsible to justice at the earliest opportunity.”

Adrian McQuillan, DUP MLA for East Londonderry, called on the PSNI to step up patrols in the area and said he will be having an urgent meeting with the local Superintendent today.

He said there have been seven attacks in the area of a similar nature in the last month with homes targeted because they were displaying a flag.

“These houses were targeted because the occupants were Protestant, with their houses displaying Unionist flags, which were removed by those responsible and graffiti dubbed on the walls,” he said.

“This is most disturbing for the occupants as well as those living in the local area, which is rural.

“I appeal for any information to be passed to the PSNI, for those with influence to act and respond to see those responsible apprehended and brought before the courts and for the PSNI to step up patrols in the area in effort to catch these thugs responsible as well as ease the anxieties of the local community.“

When we saw similar sectarian incidents in recent weeks occur we saw the PSNI respond to stop them as well as Sinn Fein representatives react and condemn.”

Those responsible for the arson attempt on the Orange Hall in Newry were branded “cowards” by District Master Jonathan Wharton.

“This was a blatant sectarian attack and those who carried out the wicked deed, under the cover of darkness, should be ashamed of their actions,” he said.

“Not content with their wanton vandalism, they clearly desired to reduce this long established and historic building to nothing but rubble and ruin – fortunately, they did not succeed.

“If the culprits cared to look beyond their narrow-minded sectarian actions, they might realise that this district hall is actually used by a wide selection of community groups. Indeed, it was those attending the weekly credit union who raised the alarm.”

Last month, Bellaghy Orange Hall was targeted in two separate attacks.

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