Belfast Telegraph

‘Utterly disgraceful’ paint bomb attack on historic Orange Hall treated as hate crime

Orange Hall in Clifton Street, Belfast, was targeted
Orange Hall in Clifton Street, Belfast, was targeted
Orange Hall in Clifton Street, Belfast, was targeted
William Humphrey
Stephen McAlister
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A paint bomb attack on an historic Orange Hall which is being treated as a hate crime is "raising tensions" in north Belfast, a member of the Orange Order has warned.

Glass bottles containing white paint were thrown at the Grade II listed building on Clifton Street on Sunday afternoon.

Secretary of District LOL No.3, Stephen McAlister, said it could cost hundreds of pounds to repair the damage caused to railings and the wall of the iconic building which has been attacked "countless times" over the decades.

"We took the big security cage down a number of years ago and ever since then the building has been attacked again and again," he said. "This quite a minor incident but it's no less annoying and is raising tensions.

"It could end up costing a couple of hundred pounds to remove, but we still need to establish that - just going in with a power hose would cause even more damage."

The steel cage was removed from the 19th-century hall - located close to the Carlisle Circus interface which separates the loyalist Shankill estate from the republican New Lodge area - a number of years ago.

Windows, which were blocked up to protect the unique building from arson attacks during the Troubles, are due to be restored soon.

"That decision is now under review," Mr McAlister said.

"The hall has been attacked countless times and I would urge those responsible to stop. We got a new £40,000 roof which has been stripped of lead three times within the past 12 months."

DUP MLA William Humphrey blamed the "utterly disgraceful" attack on republicans who he branded as "small-minded bigots".

"This follows a pattern in previous years of the hall being attacked by republicans around the times when parades depart from the hall," he said.

"Those responsible demonstrate only their own moral depravity and sectarianism."

Mr Humphrey said the attack will not detract from the success of Orange Order celebrations as he urged witnesses to contact the police.

"The Orange Institution organised another wonderful Twelfth of July demonstration this year, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people across the province, and will not be deterred by hate crimes conducted against our halls," he said.

"This attack must be condemned by all right-thinking people and I urge anyone who can assist the police investigation to contact the PSNI."

The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast said the attack followed "one of the biggest and most successful" Twelfths in many years, despite some "isolated unsavoury incidents" on social media.

"Sadly, there are still those who seek to cause mayhem and violence around our celebrations," it said in a statement.

"Republicans threw petrol bombs on the Springfield Road and more sinisterly left a viable explosive device on the route taken by Whiterock LOL 974 on the Twelfth morning.

"While the Army were attempting to defuse the device, it exploded into a fireball."

The statement praised the police and Army bomb disposal officers for their handling of the "murder attempt" after the viable device was discovered shortly before 9am on Friday.

"Regrettably, the climate for such attacks is fuelled by the Parades Commission's bigoted attitude to Loyal Order parades in the area," it continued.

County Grand Master Spencer Beattie thanked all who helped make Friday "a very special" day.

"I know all right-thinking people, from all communities, will join with me in condemning the thugs who attacked the police and the parade," he added.

PSNI Inspector Natalie McNally said the Clifton Street Orange Hall was attacked some time after 1.30pm on Sunday. She said: "We are appealing for anyone who might have information about this incident, which is being treated as a sectarian hate crime, to contact us on 101 quoting 1665 of 14/07/19."

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