Northern Ireland

Strawletterdallon Orange hall: Arlene Foster says verbal and physical attacks must stop

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Media captionWindows were smashed at the hall in the latest series of attacks

First Minister Arlene Foster has said that verbal attacks on the the Orange Order must be condemned along with physical attacks on Orange property.

Mrs Foster was speaking during a visit to Strawletterdallon Orange hall in County Tyrone.

The hall, near Newtownstewart, has been attacked twice this week.

Mrs Foster said Strawletterdallon was "a prime example of how many Orange halls are community hubs, particularly in rural areas".

"This is an attack on the entire community and I welcome the strong words from many different quarters in response to it," she said.

"It is important though that such solidarity is not just displayed in the aftermath of an attack. We regularly see opposition to loyal order parades. Its members are often described as sectarian and as bigots.

"Alongside the rightful condemnation of attacks on property, we need to hear condemnation of such verbal attacks on the institution and its members also."

Earlier, the grand master of the Orange Order described the second attack on the hall as a "wanton act of violence".

The building was first targeted on Wednesday night, with further damage caused at around 19:00 GMT on Thursday.

Image caption Arlene Foster said verbal attacks on the Orange Order must also stop

Edward Stevenson said the people behind the attacks "have nothing to offer society."

'Hate Crime'

It is understood that all nearly all of the windows in the property have been damaged as a result of the attacks.

Mr Stevenson said the damage will be very expensive to replace.

Image caption The hall was previously targeted in 2011

"They attacked a very vulnerable hall sitting at the side of the road, a very easy target. But what started off as a hate crime earlier in the week is vast becoming a campaign, with the second attack in as many days on this hall," he said.

"The people that did this have nothing to offer society. We want to move forward in society, and live and let live and have a healthy respect for each other's traditions."

Strawletterdallon hall was damaged five years ago in an arson attack.

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