Senior representatives of the Orange Institution have met with the PSNI to express their concern over ongoing attacks on Orange halls across Northern Ireland.
Last week, Salterstown Orange hall in Co Londonderry was extensively damaged in an arson attack. It was the 21st reported incident targeting Orange property so far this year.
The Orange delegation – including Grand Master Edward Stevenson, Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning and Assistant Grand Master Lewis Singleton – attended the meeting at PSNI headquarters in east Belfast. There, they met senior police officers, including Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Stevenson described the meeting as a “useful exercise”.
“While we have regular communication with the police, it was of paramount importance that we held this meeting to convey our deep concern at the upsurge of criminality targeting Orange halls,” he said.
“In our discussions, we underlined the seriousness of the situation and the seemingly unending campaign of violence against our properties and way of life. We highlighted the fact that no part of the Province is exempt from such sectarianism, with halls in every county targeted. We were disappointed to be informed of the zero conviction rate, so far this year, for such hate crimes.
“Whilst mindful it is logistically impossible for a 24 hour guard on every hall, we emphasised the need for a concerted and co-ordinated policing strategy, resulting in individuals being made amenable for their criminal activities. Grand Lodge is willing to assist the PSNI in whatever way possible in this regard to ensure the prevention and cessation of such attacks.”
The Grand Master stressed whilst the police have a role to play in terms of law and order, there was also an onus on wider society, and particularly all those committed to a peaceful Northern Ireland, to confront sectarian attitudes against the Orange Institution.
He said the constant “demonisation” of the Loyal Order only served to give credence to the moronic individuals responsible for attacking Orange property.
Mr Stevenson, who has also raised the issue with members of the Policing Board, expressed his gratitude to the PSNI for facilitating the meeting, and urged those with any information in relation to any hall attacks to contact police immediately