Following the internal split within the IRA in 1969 and the creation of the ‘Provisional’ movement in December of that year, those who opted not to break remained as a socialist organisation under the title of the Official N.L.F.
However, on the 29th May 1972 the Officials called a permanent ceasefire in operations against the British but continued to engage in gun fights against their rivals in the Provisional’s. By this stage the Provisional’s had become the larger of the two sides and it was they who continued the fight against Britain. The Provisional’s were now in reality carrying the mantle of the IRA and the Official’s became the National Liberation Front (NLF). The term ‘Provisional’, originated after the December 1969 split, was dropped nine months later in September 1970 at an army convention. However, the term stuck as a general terminology. (For a more in depth analogy on the split refer to A Rebel Voice - A History of Belfast Republicanism) The Official’s/NLF intended in pursuing a socialist political drive into politics which in turn would cause a further split of that organisation creating a more militant INLA. One of those buried in this plot is Joe McCann from the Pound Loney (Divis) who led the Official unit in the Market area. He was a charismatic figure who stayed with the Official’s because they were politically motivated. But his relationship with the Dublin leadership was not a good one. He was to much a militant for them; a political figure at heart, but was all for military action. His unit was responsible for the first British Army fatality of the Official’s, when it opened fire on a mobile patrol in Cromac Square killing Robert Bankier of the Royal Green Jackets on the 21st of May 1971.
Less than three months later on the 9th of August, Internment was once again introduced by the Stormont Government, and street fighting erupted as British troops laid siege to Nationalist areas.
In the Market area, a squad of Official’s led by Joe McCann took over Inglis’s Bakery in Eliza Street in an attempt to tie down British troops to let remaining IRA men escape. They opened fire on the soldiers from behind blazing bread vans. The encounter produced one of the most startling photographs of Internment morning, showing Joe McCann silhouetted in front of a burning vehicle with an M1 Carbine watching the flames rise as a Starry Plough flag flutters beside him.
He was a charismatic figure who like many has been shrouded in mythology; those who knew him speak well of him and his deeds, there is no doubting his daring, the very thing that led to his death. Less than a year after that action in Eliza Street, as one of the most wanted men in the North, he was shot dead unarmed, by a patrol of the Parachute Regiment at the corner of Joy Street and Hamilton Street during a visit into the Market area.
Within hours of his killing, gun battles broke out in the Divis and Turf Lodge areas. One soldier was killed and two wounded in Divis Flats, another was killed in Derry and two more wounded in Newry. Sniping and rioting was widespread in Nationalist areas as a result of his killing. A plaque commemorates his death on the spot where he was killed.
The last two names to date (September 2000) inscribed on the memorial plot is that of Jack Brady - 28th January, 1997 and Paddy McAllister - 16th September, 1998.
Jack Brady was a life long Socialist Republican originating from Kilmood Street in Ballymacarrett/Short Strand. He joined the IRA via the Fianna in that area in 1929, along with men such as Jim Straney and Willie O’Hanlon, (and later Liam Tumilson) all of whom fought in the Spanish Civil War during 1937/38.
Jack, who remained in Belfast, stayed with the IRA and was interned during the war years. He later moved to the Andersonstown area to bring up his family. Jack Brady remained a Socialist Republican to his death.
Paddy McAllister who died in Ballymurphy in 1998, was born on the 8th January, 1909 at 81 Lincoln Street. He was the youngest of five brothers, three of whom including Paddy became involved in Republicanism, firstly through the Fianna and then the IRA.
Unemployment at home forced Paddy to emigrate to Canada in 1928. As depression worsened in the thirties, he became involved with the relief strikes of the unemployed in Vancouver. He was twice jailed for taking part in strikes. It was these convictions that made him volunteer for the war in Spain in 1937. With others he sailed from Vancouver to Dieppe in France, and then transferred by train to Perpigan, where he and his comrades crossed the Pyrenees into Spain.
After a spell of training in Figueras, he joined the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion of the 15th International Brigade. He was wounded in the Sierra del Caballs on the Aragon Front in 1938, and while recovering in hospital the International Brigades were withdrawn from Spain. He arrived back in Belfast on Christmas Eve, 1938, but for Paddy there was no war hero’s welcome.
He remained active in the trade union disputes, and worked in the shipyard during the fifties and early sixties. Living in Theodore Street, and later Osman Street, he remained loyal to the Workers Party until his death in 1998, at the age of 88.