On February 7, 1922, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland kidnaps and holds hostage forty-two prominent loyalist activists in Fermanagh and Tyrone in response to the January 14 arrest of the Monaghan county football team, who were traveling to play Derry in the final of the Ulster Championship game.
A party of eighteen armed B-Specials, a part-time auxiliary police force which is almost 100% Protestant, when traveling by train to Enniskillen, are stopped at Clones railway station in County Monaghan by an IRA group. The B-Specials react immediately by shooting Commander Fitzpatrick. His colleagues retaliate by fatally shooting four Specials and arresting the survivors. Trouble in the North is at a boiling point and in the three days after the Clones incident thirty people are murdered in Belfast.
Intense negotiations between Secretary of State for the Colonies Winston Churchill and Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State Michael Collins helps to secure the release of the Monaghan footballers and the Fermanagh and Tyrone loyalists, but for some time the British suspend the evacuation of troops from Ireland. Following the incident, Churchill, who is leading the UK effort on the transfer of power following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, writes to his wife Clementine in what might be termed an understatement, “Ireland is sure to bring us every form of difficulty and embarrassment.”
Collins and James Craig, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, have further discussions in Dublin in early February 1922 but the meeting breaks down over the question of the boundary revision. Craig informs reporters that he has the assurance of the British Government that the Boundary Commission will make only slight changes. He complains that the maps which Collins had produced led him to the assumption that Collins had already been promised almost half of Northern Ireland. Craig agrees to minor changes but if North and South fail to agree, there will be no change at all. Collins issues a statement which refuses to admit any ambiguity and says that majorities must rule.
The British and the Provisional Government finally agreed that an Irish Free State Agreement Bill will legalise the Treaty and the transfer of power to the Provisional Government and will authorise the election of a Provisional Parliament to enact the Free State Constitution. Final ratification of the Treaty is deferred until the British confirm the Free State Constitution. Only then will Northern Ireland be allowed to exclude itself formally from the Free State.
(From: “OTD in 1922 – The IRA Kidnaps More Than Forty Loyalists Activists and ‘B’ Specials,” Stair na hÉireann | History of Ireland, https://stairnaheireann.net | Picture: Colour image of the IRA patrolling Grafton Street, Dublin, during the Irish Civil War in 1922, 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour)