A FIRE which badly damaged an Orange hall in County Londonderry in Northern Ireland on Sunday is being treated as a hate crime and was started delibaretly, police have confirmed. 

The fire and rescue service was called to Ballynougher Orange Hall near Magherafelt around 5pm on Sunday night. 

Twenty-nine firefighters were involved in the operation with the public being advised to avoid the area. 

Detective Sergeant Brian Reid said an accelerant was used to start the fire which left the building “extensively damaged”.

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He said: "An investigation is underway and we are treating the incident as a hate crime.

“I would appeal to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the Aghagaskin Road area on Sunday, or who captured dash-cam footage from the area which could assist us with our investigation to contact detectives at Cookstown."

The DUP’s Keith Buchanan said: “I visited the hall this evening as fire crews were battling to bring the blaze under control. 

“One of the metal window-guards had been removed when the fire was discovered. The fire has seriously damaged the hall with the roof collapsed. 

“The police are investigating the circumstances. I call on anyone with information to contact the police in Magherafelt.”