1920-1939 | Burning villages | Collective punishments | Punitive operations



A statue commemorates Seán Mac Eoin who commanded IRA volunteers in a battle with Crown forces in the village the previous month.
Darrin Antrobus – CC BY-SA 2.0 – via Geograph.

[ 21 December 1920 ]

At about 3.30 am on 21 December 1920, what the British press referred to as ‘forces of the Crown’, entered and burned down the village of Ballinalee in County Longford, Ireland.  It was a carefully planned collective punishment against the entire community in retaliation for an attack by Irish Republicans on the village’s police barracks earlier the same month in which a police  constable had been killed.  The invading party systematically destroyed the shops, houses, a farmhouse, stores and outbuildings and shot dead livestock in the surrounding fields.  One of the few buildings which was spared was the schoolhouse which was commandeered and fortified by the British army. Most of the village’s inhabitants were reported to have fled ‘in terror’.1  Although British press coverage maintained that the annihilation of the village had been provoked by the IRA strike on the local police station on 13 December, British troops had already attempted in early November to burn Ballinalee, but had been successfully repulsed by a small number of IRA volunteers.


  1. ‘Village Burned Out: Inhabitants Flee in Terror,’ ‘The Lincolnshire Echo, 21 December 1920, p. 3, ‘Village Burned Out,’ Nottingham Evening Post, 21 December 1920, p. 4 and ‘Ballinalee Village Set in Flames,’ The Aberdeen Daily Journal, 22 December 1920, p. 6.

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