Northern Ireland

Ballyronan: Salterstown Orange Hall damaged in arson attack

Salterstown Orange Hall
Image caption The inside of Salterstown Orange Hall was extensively damaged

An Orange Hall in County Londonderry has been damaged in an arson attack.

The alarm was raised at about 04:00 BST on Monday when someone living close to Salterstown Orange Hall, Ballyronan, saw the blaze.

The inside of the building was extensively damaged.

A lodge banner, collarettes and musical instruments were destroyed. The lodge's deputy master said he could not understand why the lodge was targeted.

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Media captionJohn Bryson of Salterstown Orange Hall said he was "at a loss to see what's gained" by the attack

"All through the Troubles, when they were really bad, we never had any problems," said John Bryson.

Image caption Neighbours reported the fire at about 04:00 BST on Monday morning

"It's out of the road, down here, you'd have to come down here looking for it.

"I don't know what's to be gained by doing the likes of this to be quite honest with you."

He said he came down to the hall in the early hours of the morning after neighbours reported the fire.

Image caption John Bryson, the lodge's deputy master, said he did not understand why the hall was targeted

"At that stage, smoke was pouring out of the room and the windows and you could hear the crackling of the burning timbers.

"So, I reckoned at that stage it was pretty major.

"I haven't been into the hall myself but from the talk by the fire brigade and police, the damage is pretty bad.

Image caption The Orange Order said the fire was a 'major setback'

"There were instruments, drums, banners, flutes, lots of things pertaining to the lodge. Who knows what shape they're in."

Fr Peter Donnelly, the parish priest of St Mary's Catholic Church in Ballinderry, said his congregation was very concerned about the attack.

"We express our sympathy with those who use the hall and I condemn it absolutely.

"I will be personally contacting the members of the Institution in Ballyronan in the coming days," he said.

A spokesman for the Orange Order said members of the lodge were "absolutely devastated".

"The hall has been a part of community life for over 100 years, serving as a meeting place for local groups, and its unavailability for a period will be keenly felt," he said.

"Despite this major setback, the lodge and the wider Orange fraternity will rally around and ensure our hall is once again fully restored."

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