Out of all periods in Irish history one that stands out for me is the Anglo Irish Treaty and the implications it would have. Last year I had relatives over from England, they were very interested in Irish history and one thing they found really fascinating was the fact when we crossed the Border, they didn't even notice. In fact we were about four miles into County Cavan before I said anything.

This Border, which today can still be the subject of debate, was put in place after the Anglo Irish Treaty in 1921. Six of the Ulster Counties would become part of the new state of Northern Ireland, the other 26 counties of Ireland would set up their own Irish Free State. You would think that most of Fermanagh's Nationalists would have opposed the Treaty however 90 per cent supported it.

In Enniskillen a Nationalist meeting took place on December 30, 1921 at the Townhall, to discuss the Treaty. Chair Healy proposed a motion that they support the Treaty and he was seconded by Father Patrick Cullinan, a contrary motion was proposed by Father Caulfield and seconded by Patrick O'Hart. The motion for the Treaty was carried by 34 votes to 8.

Feelings ran high in Fermanagh especially in Border areas. Although the majority supported the Treaty, there was still a fear of trouble from some.

There was high activity along the Fermanagh - Monaghan Border. On Sunday, January 22, the Ulster Gaelic Football Final was played in Londonderry. The previous evening six cars had left Monaghan to bring the Monaghan players to Londonderry, many of the members of the team were members of the IRA.

They were stopped by a B Specials (Ulster Special Constabulary) check point at Dromore station. After a search the Specials discovered weapons in the cars and arrested ten of the men. The IRA men were led by Dan Hogan O/C of the Fifth Northern Division. The men were taken to Omagh and interned.

The IRA waited impatiently for a chance at reprisal and so it came on Saturday, February 11, 1922. A group of B Specials were returning via train from Newtownards to Enniskillen. The train had to pass through Clones, (the Specials had overlooked the Border, and were armed).

Upon reaching Monaghan, word was sent to the Commandant, Matt Fitzpatrick in Clones, who decided to arrest the men at Clones station. However by the time Fitzpatrick and his men had got near Clones station, the Specials had changed onto the Belfast-Enniskillen train.

Upon reaching the train station, Fitzpatrick approached one of the windows on the Enniskillen train and shouted "put your hands up and there will be no shooting", he was looking at one of the Officers on the train. However almost immediately a shot was fired by a young member of the Specials from behind, Fitzpatrick had been shot through the head and fell dead on the buffers between two carriages. The IRA immediately reacted and opened fire on the train. Five members of the Specials, Doherty, McMahon, McCullough, Lewis and McFarland were shot and killed. Several members of the Specials ran down the train track and crossed the border into Fermanagh. The few remaining B Specials on the train decided to surrender and were arrested.

The IRA lifted the body of the Commandant Fitzpatrick of the buffers and laid him on the ground, his body was attended to by Monsignor E.C. ward who gave him the Last Rights.

The Clones Ambush, as the event was later called, was one of the first incidents of what would become the troubles of the 1920s.

The IRA had stepped up operations in Northern territory, one of their aims was to kidnap some prominent Unionists and hold them hostage. On February 8, 1922, a number of IRA men surrounded Brooke View Lodge, the house of James Cooper. The plan was to capture Mr Cooper as quietly as possible, however Cooper was spooked by a noise, and he immediately grabbed his gun and fired shots at the men through a window, the men decided to run away and abort the plan.

On the same night another prominent Unionist, J.N. Carson heard a car drive up his lane at 4am. The IRA knocked on the door and ordered Carson to come down. Instead of going to the front door, Carson managed to run out the back door. The IRA broke down the front door with a sledge hammer, and met Mrs Carson coming down the stairs, who then fainted with fright. They ran through the house and out the back door, seeing Carson in the distance they fired shots at him. Carson was hit with a bullet in the shoulder, he fell and was captured. Carson was held for a fortnight in Ballymahon and Lanesboro, County Longford, before he was given a car and told to drive it back to Fermanagh. These are just a few of a score of incidents that happened during the period. The Treaty had been accepted by the majority of the people, yet a minority who opposed it decided to try and impose their will on others by the use of violence. Fermanagh's most stormy period was between the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty and the outbreak of Civil War in the Free State. The B Specials became the defenders of the border, for this they paid a heavy price with 16 of their men losing their lives.

By the end of the 1920-22 conflict, The Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) was re-organised. The regular Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) took over normal policing duties. The 'A' and 'C' categories of the USC were dispensed with, leaving only the B-Specials, who functioned as a permanent reserve force, they were armed and uniformed in the same manner as the RUC. There were occasions when the B Specials or B Men as they became fondly known, needed to turn out for duty. One such example was in Belfast in 1931, when sectarian rioting broke out. The B Specials were tasked to relieve the RUC from normal duties to allow them and the British Army to deal with the disturbances. During the Second World War, the USC was mobilised to serve in Britain's Home Guard, which unusually, was put under the command of the police rather than the British Army.

During its fifty years of service the B Specials came to occupy a unique place in Ulster's history. They were regarded as the embodiment of the Northern Ireland state's ability to protect itself from internal and external threat. Their duty and sacrifice are remembered fondly in the hearts of the Ulster people to this very day.