Fire destroys Convoy Orange Hall

Fire destroys Convoy Orange Hall
Gardaí are investigating a blaze which caused serious damage at an Orange Hall in Convoy overnight.

Gardaí are investigating a blaze which caused serious damage at an Orange Hall in Convoy overnight.

The fire, which was discovered at around 4am, destroyed the building’s roof and main hall.

This is the second Orange Hall to be damaged by a fire in recent weeks.

The Orange Hall in Newtowncunningham, which was rebuilt after an arson attack in 2010, was destroyed in what gardaí suspect to be another arson attack on September 14.

Convoy Thiepval Memoral Lodge was formed in May 1919 as a memorial to those who died in WWI and the hall was built in 1930.

Sinn Féin Cllr Liam Doherty, who lives in Convoy, was alerted shortly after the fire was discovered and was quickly on the scene.

He told the Democrat: “The man who discovered the fire told me that the back door had been forced open, so it certainly seems as if the fire was set deliberately.

“It started in the main hall, which was gutted and the roof was also destroyed.

“The building was refurbished a few years back, as many Orange Halls were, and up to until recently, was home to the Thiepval Memorial Pipe Band. “Thankfully, none of their equipment was in the building at the time.”

“This fire will be very upsetting to all the people of Convoy, where we have very good relations across the entire community.”

Convoy Worshipful Master Alan Laird said members were “absolutely devastated” by the fire.

He said: “The Orange fraternity in Convoy is just aghast - we are in a complete state of shock.

“We enjoy fantastic community relations with our Roman Catholic neighbours and have no idea why our hall would be targeted in such a manner.

“The hall has served as a hub for a range of social activities for generations, and only recently hosted a 100th birthday party.”

He added: “Its immediate loss will be keenly felt but we are determined to see the hall restored again to its former glory.”

Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, said: “It would appear that this incident, although not yet confirmed, is a carbon copy of the recent arson attack 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 added: “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 Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has urged any witnesses to contact Gardai as a matter of urgency.

There have been a total of 16 reported attacks on Orange property so far this year in Northern Ireland and the Republic.