Burning of Roslea, 1921

Posted By: February 24, 2021

Fermanagh Village Sacked

On This Day [in Irish history
The Irish News, February 23, 1921
Eamon Phoenix. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Our Newbliss [Co Monaghan] correspondent writes: Following the shooting of George Lester, a Unionist merchant of Rosslea, County Fermanagh who was fired at and wounded on Monday morning by three disguised men, wild scenes were enacted that night when the inhabitants were terrorised by shooting into houses. A large portion of the village was burned and a young man named Finegan, a member of the [Protestant/Unionist] Ulster Volunteers from County Monaghan, lost his life by the accidental discharge of a rifle which he carried.

The trouble began about 10 p.m. when a party of armed Volunteers from neighbouring districts entered the village and commenced firing shots. A reign of terror prevailed and matters became worse when lorries of Ulster Specials arrived some time later. The houses of prominent Catholics were visited and shots fired through the windows. Some of the terrified residents, getting out by the rear, fled to the hills and from there witnessed their houses bursting into flames. The first house set on fire was that of Philip Trainor which was burned out. Matthew Finnegan’s fine drapery establishment was the next to suffer. In all, ten houses were burned.

 When seen yesterday, the once neat and picturesque little mountainside town was enveloped in a blue smoke and on entering, one saw here and there a mass of smouldering ruins with bewildered inhabitants discussing the alarming happenings of the previous night. Mr Lester, who was shot and wounded, is now under treatment in Monaghan County Infirmary..

Roslea is a village of about 400 inhabitants, situated four miles from Clones in County Fermanagh.

Archbishop of Canterbury ‘Uneasy’

            In the House of Lords yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that while condemning the wickedness of the murderous gangs whom the forces of the Crown had to oppose in Ireland, he was bewildered at the regular reprisals that were undertaken, not at the order of any high Government authority, but by independent bodies of inadequately- disciplined men.
( EAMON PHOENIX :The sack of  Roslea on the Fermanagh-Monaghan border followed the wounding of a leading Loyalist by the IRA. It was an early warning of the violence which would flare along the new boundary as the IRA and the USC confronted each other. The Roslea burnings by UVF provoked a series of reprisal burnings of Unionist farm-houses by the IRA. Finally, the spiral of tit-for -tat attacks was ended by a peace conference of the two sides in Clones. Meanwhile the Church of England hierarchy joined Asquith in denouncing the depredations of the  Crown forces in Ireland. By June Bonar Law, the Deputy PM, could speak of ‘a small war which we are losing.’)

Roslea: UVF Blamed
On This Day [in Irish History
The Irish News, February 24, 1921
Eamon Phoenix. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

 Large forces of  [Protestant/Unionist] Special Constables arrived in Roslea (County Fermanagh) yesterday evening and commandeered the hotel and business establishment of Mr James Flynn. Mr Flynn was obliged to clear out with his small family to a house at the other end of the village, leaving some thousands of pounds worth of provisions, drink, etc which he could not remove.

As to who was responsible of setting the village in flames, the general impression is that it was the  [Protestant/Unionist]Ulster Volunteers who started the nefarious work. Every person in the village deplores the wounding of Mr Lester [Unionist shopkeeper] and no-one suggests that his assailants belong to the village. Why then, people ask, should unauthorised persons, in possession of arms, be allowed to participate in an attempt to wipe out a small town?

A member of the [Protestant/Unionist] Specials had denied to our correspondent that they were in any way responsible for the burnings. The town is now quiet and being patrolled by Specials.