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Orange hall fire in Newtowncunningham was arson say police

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Media captionThe fire, which badly damaged the Orange hall, was filmed on a mobile phone

Irish police have said they are treating a fire that destroyed an Orange hall in County Donegal as arson.

Firefighters from Londonderry and Letterkenny attended the blaze at the building in Newtowncunningham on Sunday morning.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Lodge treasurer Stewart McClean said Orangemen in the area were "absolutely devastated".

"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," he said.

"The building served as a hub for local groups and its loss will be keenly felt.

Image caption Forensic officers have been carrying out an examination of the scene

"Whatever the circumstances of the fire, I have no doubt the Orange fraternity will rally round - despite this major setback - to ensure the hall is once again restored to its former glory."

It is the second time the hall has been targeted. In 2010, a door was burnt in an arson attack.

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Media captionStewart McClean said the building served as a "hub" for local groups and its loss would be keenly felt

Mr McClean estimated the cost to re-build the hall at about 300,000 euros (£238,890).

"It's a considerable amount of effort for a small lodge of 30 members," he said.

"The only part that is left intact is the kitchen. The complete inside of the hall is gutted and all our banners and lodge equipment has been destroyed in the fire."

Image caption The interior of the building has been gutted and the roof was totally destroyed

He said lodge members had received "acts of sympathy" from the local community, as well as from councillors and clergy.

"Everyone within the community is devastated by this. It's an attack on the entire community, not just the Orange lodge," he added.

Fianna Fáil councillor Paul Canning said people were shocked by the huge amount of damage caused to the hall.

"It's sad to see it burned," he said.

"The building is gutted and the roof is totally burned off it. To see flames going up into the air on a Sunday morning, it's sad to see.

"At the minute nobody has any idea what actually did happen."

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