Condemnation after arson attack destroys Orange Hall near Magherafelt
There has been condemnation after Ballynougher Orange Hall near Magherafelt was destroyed by fire on Sunday (30 October) in what has been described as "an attack on a community".
Emergency Services were tasked to the scene of the incident shortly before 5pm yesterday at Aghagaskin Road, and Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service worked into the dark of evening to extinguish the blaze.
A spokesperson for Magerafelt District No.3 Orange Lodge commented:
"The District Officers of Magherafelt District No.3 wish to condemn this vicious attack on Ballynougher LOL269 hall this afternoon.
"This hall has stood since 1906, when it replaced an earlier hall. It was a rural community centre, reflecting community life through two world wars, and the later Troubles.
"It saw a pipe band started after World War I and welcome home parties for veterans after World War II. It’s warrant, 269, had been around since at least 1823 and it’s Orange families for even longer.
"It was not just a building attacked tonight, it was a community."
Detectives have appealed for information following the arson attack.
Detective Sergeant Brian Reid said:
“We believe at this time that entry was forced through a window at the rear of the property and that accelerant has then been used to start the fire which has left the building extensively damaged. An investigation is underway and we are treating the incident as a hate crime.
“I would appeal to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Aghagaskin Road area on Sunday, or who captured dash-cam footage from the area which could assist us with our investigation, to contact detectives at Cookstown on 101, quoting reference number 1480 30/10/22. A report can be made using the online reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport. Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”
TUV Mid Ulster spokesperson Glen Moore has also condemned the attack. He said:
“This evening’s destruction of Ballynougher Orange Hall near Magherafelt represents a serious escalation of what has been a series of sinister developments in south Co Londonderry in recent weeks.
"Recently I have had occasion to highlight the attacks on Innishrush where residents have had to resort to makeshift barriers in an effort to stop those who have sought to intimidate residents with fireworks and Republican chanting late at night and in the early hours. Now we have a hall seriously damaged in what was clearly a deliberate attack upon the Protestant and Unionist community.
“Condemnation from politicians would be welcome in so far as it goes but we need more. Recently Ms O’Neill who is an MLA for the area refused to condemn the glorification of the IRA in sick songs which have in the aftermath been deployed by Republicans seeking to intimidate the minority community in Mid Ulster. You cannot celebrate those who murdered Orangemen in Orange Halls one day and condemn attacks on Orange Halls the next.
“The rhetoric of wider Republicanism can not be divorced from tonight’s disgraceful attack. Society and the media need to face up to that and challenge toxic Republicanism much more robustly”.