GARDAI have confirmed the fire at an Orange Hall in Newtowncunningham on Sunday morning was malicious.
The news follows a detailed forensic examination of the scene by garda officers. Speaking today, Mr Stewart McClean, Treasurer of the Orange Hall Committee, said it could take up to a year before the hall is rebuilt.
As well as causing extensive damage the fire also destroyed memorabilia including banners and lodge equipment-bibles
Mr McClean, said local Orangemen were ‘absolutely devastated’ by the incident.
“Lodge members are in a complete state of shock. 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. The building served as a hub for local groups and its loss will be keenly felt.
“Whatever the circumstances of the fire, I have no doubt the Orange fraternity, despite this major setback, will rally round to ensure the hall is once again restored to its former glory.”
A spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland urged any witnesses to contact Gardai as a matter of urgency. The last Orange hall to be destroyed by fire was at Inver, Co Fermanagh, in 2011. It was later established to be an arson attack.