Belfast Telegraph

Latest attack on Orange hall 'a blatant attempt to stir tensions'

By Rachel Martin

An attack on an Orange hall has been branded a "blatant attempt to stir up sectarian tensions in Rasharkin".

The hall on Main Street in the north Antrim village is thought to have been targeted early on Saturday.

Graffiti referring to the 1916 Easter Rising was spotted by a police patrol at around 2.30am.

Police in Coleraine say they are treating the incident as a hate crime and are appealing to the public for information. It is the third attack on an Orange hall in as many days following two separate incidents at Strawletterdallon Orange hall in Co Tyrone last week.

According to the Orange Order, the hall has been subjected to numerous acts of vandalism.

Just three days ago First Minister Arlene Foster visited the hall, near Newtownstewart, after windows and door panels had been smashed.

Posting on Twitter, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the incidents, calling them "an affront to all of us dedicated to Irish republicanism and peace".

UUP MLA Robin Swann, a past master of the Orange Order, said it was "sickening sectarian vandalism" and a "blatant attempt to stir up sectarian tensions in Rasharkin".

He said: "It is abundantly clear these so-called 'brave' individuals who carried out this vandalism in Rasharkin were inspired by the earlier Strawletterdallon Orange hall attacks in Co Tyrone.

"I appeal to the entire community as we near the start of this year's traditional marching season not to allow an irrelevant minority of vandals wreck harmony in the constituency or rise to the bait of retaliation."

SDLP Assembly candidate Connor Duncan said the "moronic" incident left him feeling "very disappointed".

He said: "This village has moved on and rarely sees disturbances of this nature and is an example of how different communities can live together in mutual peace and respect.

"Those behind these attacks need to understand the damage they are doing to the cause they may claim to support.

"It is an ambition that can only be realised by improving community relations and assuring unionists that their culture is respected."

Grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Drew Nelson called for no retaliation.

He said: "The Orange Institution very much hopes the forthcoming centenary of the Easter Rebellion passes off peacefully and without any further sectarian attacks.

"The Institution recognises that this is a challenging year and we sincerely hope people will not use the centenary of the Easter Rising in a few weeks as an excuse and smokescreen to attack the symbolic buildings of their Protestant neighbours.

"Nonetheless, we would be very confident these attacks on our halls are emanating from a very tiny group of individuals, and are in no way representative of the vast majority of the wider community who are vehemently opposed to such criminality."

Police Inspector Samuel McConnell urged anyone with information to contact Coleraine PSNI station on 101, or anonymously through independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Belfast Telegraph


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