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Nearly a century on, slain Catholic B-Special's grave finally given a headstone

First Minister among those honouring officer shot by IRA sniper

By Allan Preston

Published 03/10/2016

The new headstone
The new headstone
Arlene Foster with the Rev Bill Atkins and members of the Ulster Special Constabulary Association and invited guests at St John’s Parish Church in Caledon
The wreath is laid by Reuben Mulligan

A Catholic police officer murdered in Co Armagh just after partition in 1922 has been honoured 94 years on from his death.

Special Constable Thomas Sheridan from Co Cavan was shot dead by a sniper shortly before midnight on Sunday, June 6, 1922.

Mr Sheridan - a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC), commonly referred to as the B-Specials - had just arrived by bicycle at a vehicle checkpoint in the border area of Annaghroe.

Yesterday afternoon First Minister Arlene Foster was among those who attended the unveiling of a new headstone at Mr Sheridan's grave in St John's Parish Church in Caledon, Co Tyrone.

Posting a picture on social media from the event, she wrote: "Beautiful afternoon in Caledon for the USC Association service to remember Special Constable Sheridan killed in 1922."

Richard Scott, secretary of the Ulster Special Constabulary Association, said Mr Sheridan deserved to be remembered for making the "supreme sacrifice".

"He was stationed in Caledon, Co Tyrone, in the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks and joined the USC eight weeks prior to his death," he explained.

"He was 35 years old and single.

"He was a Roman Catholic and, due to the high tension along the newly established border and because he was a member of the USC, his family were unable to take his remains home to Co Cavan for burial."

Instead, Constable Sheridan was buried with full police honours at St John's.

To this day the legacy of the B-Specials remains deeply divisive.

Formed as a police reserve force in 1920 to combat IRA violence, many unionists believe its members prevented anarchy in Northern Ireland's first years.

However, many nationalists and republicans see the B-Specials as an almost exclusively Protestant force that was guilty of many instances of intimidation against the minority Catholic population.

The B-Specials were disbanded in 1970 as the Troubles began to reach boiling point, and were replaced by the UDR.

Mr Scott said: "In the past some nationalist politicians have called the USC an exclusively Protestant force - that is false information. There were quite a lot of Roman Catholics in the USC.

"A lot had joined in the early years, but they had to leave because they were threatened by the IRA."

Questions remain as to why someone from the new Free State signed up for such a hazardous role.

"I don't know why Constable Sheridan, a Cavan man, joined the USC at such a dangerous time. Maybe it's because in 1922 it was quite hard to get work - but as far as we're concerned he was an honourable man," said Mr Scott.

"His grave has been lying for years with no headstone, so the association has decided that it was time this man was honoured."

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