Somme flags ripped down from Orange hall near Moneymore in hate crime

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An Orange hall near Moneymore has been targeted for a second time in a hate crime.

Two flags and their attachments were ripped down from Ballyneal hall during the early hours of Saturday morning.

The Union and Somme remembrance flags were only erected hours before.

The theft follows an attempted arson at the property on the Brookmount Road in May.

An Orange Order spokesman condemned the flags theft as “shameful”.

He said: “Due to its rural and isolated location, Ballyneal hall would be regarded as an easy target for the intolerant culprits wishing to engage in such low life criminality. Nonetheless, this does not excuse their misdemeanours under the cover of darkness.

“Any form of disrespect for the Union flag is appalling and must be condemned. However, it is abhorrent that a flag commemorating the centenary of Battle of the Somme, recognising the loss of all who paid the supreme sacrifice - regardless of background, colour or creed - should be treated with such disdain. Those responsible ought to be utterly ashamed of their actions.”

The Orange Institution has appealed for anyone with any information in relation to the Ballyneal flags theft to contact the police as a matter of urgency.

Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan also condemned the incident.

“This is clearly a hate crime motivated by sectarianism and unfortunately follows a number of similar attacks to halls across the Province,” he said.

“Over this weekend people have been marking the service and sacrifice of those from all traditions who fought at the Battle of the Somme. It is particularly disgraceful therefore that a Somme remembrance flag was one of those ripped down in this attack.

“I would urge anyone with information to contact the police so that those responsible might be brought to justice.”

The PSNI say they are treating it as a hate crime

Sergeant Tate from the Local Policing Team is asking anyone who was in the area and who noticed the flags being removed, or any other unusual activity, to contact police in Magherafelt on 101, quoting reference 1356 02/07/16.