Northern Ireland

Fire at Magherafelt Orange Hall treated as hate crime

Fire crews tackle a fire at a rural Orange Hall outside Magherafelt yesterday. Picture: NIFRS
Fire crews tackle a fire at a rural Orange Hall outside Magherafelt yesterday. Picture: NIFRS

A fire that extensively damaged an Orange hall in Magherafelt is being treated as a hate crime, police have said.

Firefighters tackled the blaze at the premises on the Aghagaskin Road yesterday evening.

Police believe entry was forced at the back of the hall and an accelerator was used to ignite the fire inside.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and UUP leader Doug Beattie are among politicians to have condemned the incident.

PSNI 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 under way and we are treating the incident as a hate crime.”

Mr Reid appealed to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Aghagaskin Road area on Sunday or who captured dash-cam footage from the area that could assist the investigation to come forward.

DUP Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan attended the scene yesterday evening.

He noted that the hall had metal window guards amid concerns about the potential for an attack.

“It speaks volumes that this hall had to have metal sheets across all its windows and doors in the first place,” he said.

“There is no place for such hatred in society. The men and women of that lodge have every right to exist in Mid Ulster and live peaceably.”

The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said firefighters were called to Ballynougher Orange Hall at 4.52pm on Sunday.

“Fire appliances from Maghera, Magherafelt and Springfield, an aerial appliance, a water tanker, 29 firefighters and two officers were in attendance. Firefighters used four jets to extinguish the fire,” it said in a statement.