Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has slammed as horrifying and disgusting the suspected torching of an Orange hall in Donegal – the second such attack within weeks.
The Stormont Deputy First Minister said there was nothing political or republican about the apparent arson attack in Convoy, Co Donegal, which he described as criminal.
The hall was destroyed by the fire, started around 4am this morning, while attempts were also made to set alight the pulpit and a room in Convoy Presbyterian Church.
Just three weeks ago, an Orange hall was deliberately burnt down in nearby Newtowncunningham, also in Co Donegal.
Investigators are trying to establish the cause of the latest outbreak.
Mr McGuiness said he was “horrified and disgusted” by the destruction.
“I’m absolutely infuriated and I want to make it absolutely clear that, in my opinion, whatever was behind the motivation of those who were responsible for these deeds, there wasn’t anything republican about it, there wasn’t anything political about it, but there was everything criminal about it,” he said.
Mr McGuinness, who lives in Derry, a short trip over the border to both Convoy and Newtowncunningham, said people in the wider area take great pride in the building up of cross-community relations in recent years.
Appealing for local people to ensure the halls are restored to their “former glory”, he described attacks on the Orange Order as totally unjustified.
“They do make an important contribution, culturally, religiously and socially to the life of people in that area, and not just from the Protestant community,” he said.
Also speaking at the latest North South Ministerial Council meeting, First Minister and Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson said he was pleased both Mr McGuinness and Taoiseach Enda Kenny had joined in the condemnation.
“We stand with the minority Protestant community in Donegal who will be uneasy at this present time,” he said.
Mr Kenny said the attacks were “acts of criminality” and assistance would be offered through reconciliation funding to help the Protestant community affected in Donegal.
Convoy Orange hall was built in the 1930s and was used by members of Thiepval Memorial Orange lodge, a local Apprentice Boys Club and for other community activities.
Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, said the arson attack appeared to be a carbon copy of the incident at Newtowncunningham.
“If so, it is our belief such criminality will be roundly rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Roman Catholic community in Donegal,” he said.
“Attacks on Orange halls are an insidious form of sectarianism, which by the evidence of recent weeks, are being carried out by a small group of well organised people.”
The Orange Order said there have been 16 reported attacks on its property so far this year in the North and Ireland.