A devastating fire which “completely gutted” Newtowncunningham’s Orange Hall has outraged the entire community.
Gardai yesterday told the Journal they are treating the fire, which occurred on Sunday morning, as “criminal damage.”
A spokesperson for the Garda Press Office said the fire was reported to Gardai at 8.20am and they, along with “numerous” fire tenders attended the scene.
They added: “The building was completely gutted and the scene has been cordoned off and preserved for technical examination. It is now being treated as criminal damage.”
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, attended the scene on Monday afternoon to survey the damage for himself, and offer his support to the brethren of Newtowncunningham True Blues LOL 1063.
Mr Stevenson described the fire as “well organised” and said Gardai confirmed to lodge members it had been started deliberately.
Among the many items damaged in the blaze was a World War One memorial.
Mr Stevenson also described the fire as nothing more than a “heinous hate crime.”
He said: “This appears to have been a well organised arson attack, with the assailants starting the fire simultaneously in at least three different parts of the
“This is nothing other than a heinous hate crime and a physical manifestation of the ongoing demonisation of our institution by some in society. We know the vast majority of people in the Republic do not condone such activity, but 20 years after the IRA ceasefire there still appears to be a legacy of hatred against the Orange
Order amongst a small minority, who are still prepared to attack us.”
Treasurer of Newtowncunningham True Blues LOL 1063, Stewart McClean, said Lodge members were in a “complete state of shock” and were “absolutely devastated” by the incident.
He said: “Since the hall was reopened in 2011, it has been used not only by the loyal orders, but also the general community of Newtowncunningham and the wider area. The building served as a hub for local groups and its loss will be keenly felt.
He added: ““Whatever the circumstances of the fire, I have no doubt the Orange fraternity – despite this major setback - will rally round to ensure the hall is once again restored to its former glory.”
The hall was used extensively by the local community in the wider Newtowncunningham area.
Located on the village’s main street, the building sustained a minor arson attack in 2010. It was rebuilt three years ago.