Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: United voice needed to stand up to bigots

The paint bomb attack against Belfast Orange Hall, Clifton Street, which occurred over the weekend
The paint bomb attack against Belfast Orange Hall, Clifton Street, which occurred over the weekend

Editor's Viewpoint

The paint bomb attack on Clifton Street Orange Hall has been regarded rightly as a hate crime. It was obviously carried out by those of such narrow minds that they cannot tolerate those of different views or who adhere to a different culture.

This was not an isolated incident; there have been hundreds of attacks on Orange Halls around Northern Ireland in the last decade. The Orange Order, whatever view anyone may take of it, is essentially a religious organisation and only the most fanatical view such institutions as legitimate targets for attack.

The same argument applies to those who vent their anger and sectarianism on Catholic churches. This defies the centuries-held belief that such buildings are places apart, sanctuaries, which should be immune from desecration.

The Clifton Street Orange Hall may be of a slightly different order from a church of any denomination, but it is an important building to the Orange Order. It is a repository of important historical artefacts and also the starting point for the traditional Twelfth parade in the city.

Indeed, this attack mars what was a remarkably successful Twelfth, when parades were held at 18 venues around the province. Apart from a couple of incidents at two bonfires, where the builders defied both civic instruction and logic over siting, there were very few incidents reported by police.

That was a remarkable achievement given the many tens of thousands who took part in or gathered to watch the parades.

Of course, it should be pointed out that the Orange Order has no control over those who build bonfires and should not be held responsible for their actions.

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It should also be noted that Clifton Street Orange Hall is a Grade II listed building and is part of an overall plans to retain and upgrade historic buildings in the area. In fact, there are fruitful cross-community discussions taking place which would improve a neglected part of the city.

These attacks on Orange Halls and Catholic churches are symptomatic of the undercurrent of sectarianism which, unfortunately, still pervades certain parts of this province.

We need stronger political and civic leadership speaking with one voice to show the bigots that they are not representative of the society at large. Bigotry diminishes us all and there should be no equivocation in condemning it absolutely.

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