'Sickening' arson attack on Co Down Orange hall
THE roof of an Orange hall has been damaged in a "sickening" arson attack.
The incident at Altnaveigh Orange Hall on Martins Lane outside Newry has been widely condemned and is the third such attack on Orange property this year.
Police have said tyres were stacked against the rear of the hall and set alight, damaging the roof. Partial smoke damage was also sustained inside.
The fire, reported at around 7.15pm on Saturday evening, was quickly dealt with by emergency services.
An Orange Order spokesman said members of the local lodge were "disgusted".
"This is a truly sickening incident and one which clearly had a clear sectarian motive. The moronic hate-filled individuals responsible are a blight on the local community and ought to be ashamed of their actions," they said.
"This really is a despicable action and we would call on all to condemn the attack and provide the PSNI with any information that may assist their investigation," the spokesman added.
Altnaveigh was the target of previous arson attacks in 1996 and 2005, and has been subjected to numerous acts of vandalism throughout the years.
Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy was among those to condemn the latest attack.
"This attack on Altnaveigh Orange hall was wrong," he said.
"If the objective was to cause community division, I am confident that this will not happen. These attacks are no different than attacks on GAA halls, churches and other cultural and community facilities and must be rejected by everyone."
UUP member Danny Kennedy described it as a "hate crime" deliberately timed to raise tensions.
"The strategic position of Altnaveigh and its history clearly continues to play on the twisted and bigoted minds of those responsible for this attack," he said.
Alliance's Jackie Coade described it as "mindless vandalism".
"Nothing positive can be gained by these sorts of incidents. We need to tolerate and respect each other's cultures and leave such senseless acts in the past,"she said.
Police are working to establish a motive.