The Orange Order has condemned the theft of a Union flag from an Orange hall near Dungiven, branding it a ‘hate crime’, while police have said they are treating the incident as a “sectarian hate crime”.
Limavady District LOL No 6 posted on their Facebook page on Thursday they received a report that the Union flag was removed and the flagpole broken sometime between Wednesday night/Thursday morning at Ardinariff Orange Hall, and said the incident has been reported to the PSNI.
A spokesman for Limavady District LOL No 6 condemned the incident.
“The Orange community in Dungiven is disgusted at this deeply offensive act. This is clearly an attempt to increase tensions ahead of the Twelfth, but we would urge people not to retaliate in any way.
“This attack comes only weeks after a successful parade and fun evening, organised by local lodges, was held for a cross-community charity. Those responsible are clearly a minority who would rather drag us back to the past.”
The spokesman said it was “the latest criminal act on Orange property in the locality, with neighbouring halls being subjected to vandalism in recent years”.
“The Ardinariff incident is the fifth attack on an Orange hall over the course of the last month in Northern Ireland.
In the most severe of these, Ballytyrone Orange Hall in Loughgall was destroyed by arsonists last week.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police are appealing for information following a theft that occurred in Dungiven sometime between the evening of Wednesday 8 July and Thursday 9 July.A flag was stolen from an Orange Hall in the Drumrane Road area and damage was also caused to a flag pole.”
Sergeant Anderson said: “Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact Limavady Police Station on the non emergency number 101. Or if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
The PSNI spokesperson added: “This is being treated as a sectarian hate crime.”