A large crowd gathered on Wednesday evening in the New Lodge area of Belfast for the commemoration of Francis Liggett, a 24-year-old newlywed Volunteer shot dead by undercover British soldiers, fifty years ago this week.
On the 18th January 1973, New Lodge man and IRA Óglach Francis Liggett was shot dead by the British Army while on active service in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Francis was born on the 27th January 1948 and lived at the Liggett family home in 27 Sussex Street at the bottom of the New Lodge Road, before moving to the Maisonettes in Sheridan Street.
Francis was the eldest of seven children and was educated at the St Malachy’s primary school, New Lodge Road and later and Bearnageeha Secondary School, Antrim Road.
In 1969, in Belfast the spirit of revolution was on the rise once more and after witnessing sectarian attacks by the RUC and Loyalist mobs on Nationalist communities, Francis joined the ranks of E Company 2nd Battalion Belfast Brigade Irish Republican Army. Some may say this was not a surprise as Francis came from a republican family and his father had been interned on the Al Rawdah prison ship which was moored off Strangford Lough in the 1940’s.
In December 1972 Francis would marry the love of his life, Maureen Shannon and set up home in the St James area. Tragically, only six weeks later Francis would die at the hands of the British Army.
On the day of his death Francis and other members of an IRA Active Service Unit had been involved in an IRA operation in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital. On completion of the operation and as the ASU withdrew, undercover British Army soldiers opened firing on the IRA volunteers. It was the action of Francis, whose responsibility it was to cover the ASU, that saved the lives of the retreating IRA volunteers.
Francis was the last person to leave the area, returning fire on the British Army, enabling his comrades to escape and return to base safely. Francis was shot by the British Army and would tragically die from his injuries.
Francis is remembered by his comrades as a committed Volunteer who had been involved in numerous operations against the British Occupation forces and in defence of his local community against loyalist attackers supported by the RUC.
Fuair sé bas ar son saoirse na hÉireann.