Men sentenced for attacks on Convoy Presbyterian community

October 16, 2018

A man who downed 15 drinks and then set fire to an Orange Hall causing almost €360,000 of damage has been jailed for two years.

Damien Murray and his accomplice Eamonn McGill appeared at a special sitting of Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal for sentencing.

The court was told that fire ripped through Convoy Thiepval Memorial Loyal Orange lodge when it was set alight on October 3rd, 2014.

As well as completely gutting the building, hundreds of years of history and irreplaceable artefacts were destroyed in the blaze.

On the same night the front door of the local Convoy Presbyterian Church, some 600 yards from the Orange Hall, was also kicked in.

A major Garda investigation following the fire led Gardai to interviewing both Murray, now aged 36, and McGill, now aged 34.

Both men initially denied any involvement in the incidents.

However, after a number of interviews Murray, a father-of-four, admitted using a lighter to set the Orange Hall on fire.

McGill, a 34-year-old father-of-two, was only charged with criminal damage to the front door of the church.

He initially denied to being involved in the attack but Gardai managed to match an Addidas trainer taken from his partner’s house in Strabane to a footprint on the door of the church.

This led to McGill admitting his part in the attack on the church.

The court was told that a total of €358,587 in damage was caused to the Orange Hall but that insurance cover had paid out €220,000 of this cost. The Irish Government gave a further €60,000 to the renovation of the hall and local members came up with the rest of the funds.

The Orange Hall has now been fully refurbished and is used by all of the community.

In a victim impact statement, the court was told that members of the local Presbyterian Church were left fearful, hurt and angered by the attack which was condemned by all sides of the community.

However, the statement added that Reverend Colin McKibbin of the local church advocated forgiveness and the Presbyterian community were seeking to move on and to build good relations with all members of the community.

Several members of the local Presbyterian Church were in court for the sentencing.

Barrister for Murray, Mr John Smith said that his client suffered from alcohol addiction and was also the victim of post-traumatic stress disorder after his family were held captive when he was a boy.

He stressed that his client had not been in trouble since this incident and was very apologetic to the Presbyterian community sating that his partner was a Protestant.

Barrister for McGill, Mr Peter Nolan, said his client had nothing to do with the arson and was a hard worker and father of two children.

He said he was prepared to pay €1,700 to the Presbyterian community to compensate them for the damage to the church hall.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain dealt with both men separately.

He sentenced McGill of Machmeendstown, Convoy but who now lives in Strabane, to two years in prison but suspended the term for two years ordering him to be of good behaviour.

He also ordered McGill to pay €2,000 to the Donegal Hospice, a charity nominated by members of the Presbyterian community present in lieu of the damage caused to the church door.

Passing sentence on Murray of Strabane, Co Tyrone, Judge O Donnabhain said he was the sole perpetrator of the arson attack.

He said his behaviour, fueled by having taken 15 drinks, had had a very real impact and loss on the local community.

He sentence he considered a sentence of five years in prison was merited but because of his early plea and an unlikelihood to re-offend, he was reducing the sentence to two years.