A recent past master of the Orange Hall in Ballytyrone destroyed in a fire last night has described the incident as a ‘despicable sectarian attack’.
William Irwin MLA was one of the first to visit the scene this morning.
He said this was a “despicable sectarian attack” on a rural Orange Hall in a quiet country area.
“Lodge and band members will be absolutely devastated when they find out what has happened to their hall,” said Mr Irwin.
“I was alerted to the attack a short time after our members had finished our monthly meeting and it was a shock to return to the hall to see it so badly damaged.”
He added: “I have been a lifelong member of the lodge and I cannot understand the mindset of those who choose to stir up sectarian strife in what is a quiet mixed community who all get along very well.
“I appeal for cool heads at this time and plead for no retaliation. Despite my personal distress and that of our members at the scene of wanton destruction at Ballytyrone I can assure the community that we will come back bigger and better from this cowardly and mindless attack on our hall.”
Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson also spoke out following the attack.
He said: “The Orange Institution is devastated that another Orange hall has been destroyed in an overnight arson attack.
“This is the nearest isolated Orange hall to Loughgall where we only opened a new museum, and educational and outreach centre, earlier this week.
“Clearly there are still some in Northern Ireland society who are prepared to use violence to attack the Orange Institution. However, we can assure everyone that this hall will be rebuilt, probably bigger and better than it was before.
“We would appeal for anyone with any information in relation to this arson attack to bring it to police as a matter of urgency.”
He added: “We would also make an appeal for calm right across the community, and in particular that there should be no retaliation whatsoever for this attack. We, as an Institution, would not wish any community to suffer from such violence, having sustained so many attacks on our properties over the years.”
Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Darryn Causby said: “The burning of Ballytyrone Orange Hall is an absolutely disgraceful act and I unreservedly condemn this.”
Police in Armagh are investigating the blaze at Creenagh Road.
Police received a report that the hall was on fire at around 11.50pm.
Firefighters attended and extinguished the blaze, however, the hall has been extensively damaged as a result.
Inspector Lynsey Barr has appealed for anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Creenagh Road area on Thursday evening or who has any information in relation to this incident to call officers in Armagh on 101 quoting reference 1550020715 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The incident happened in the same week that the new Museum of Orange Heritage opened in the village.