Monday, January 1, 2018

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Victor Notarantonio

Anthony McIntyre looks back on his friendship with Victor Notarantonio who died last January.



I came to know him through his son Crick, a friend of mine. Then he and I established a friendship in its own right. I would often visit his home, talk shop, chat with his wife, Kate, drink spirits or watch the soccer on his widescreen television, the first I had come cross in anybody’s home. It led to me to acquiring one myself which took years to pay off. Thing is – I wouldn’t go for a small screen again, and haven’t been without a big screen since. The sport and wild life in high definition big screen are something else.

We often talked politics and at the time of the Good Friday Agreement he bantered me about siding with the DUP by voting against it. I pointed out the UDA which had killed his father was supporting it, so if I was on the same side as the DUP he was on the same side as the UDA. He laughed but appreciated the irony I had drawn his attention to, even though neither of us was too serious about the matter. Political choices are more complex than the Manichean allows for.

Vic had a very laid back manner, which took verbal expression in the form of a drawl. He never got excitable over much. Frequently we would share a brandy in his home. On one occasion when I asked for ginger he dismissed the request with the retort that it cost seventy five quid a bottle so I would have to drink it straight and not ruin it with ginger. There is some wisdom in that but whiskey is easier taken neat than brandy.

The Notarantonio family had a history of association with republicanism. Victor's father, a former republican internee was shot dead in 1987 in a British dirty tricks operation. The British directed the UDA to kill him in order to divert the loyalist group away from one of the military’s informers. Victor and his brother Christopher, had both been internees, Vic at one time being held on the Maidstone prison ship, in Belfast Lough.

He was deeply hurt by the October 2000 Provisional IRA killing of his nephew, Joe O’Connor, in the same street where the British and UDA had slain his father. He further felt insulted by the organisation's denial of responsibility and cynical offer of sympathy to the family. Victor firmly believed felt he had negotiated a peaceful resolution to conflict between the Real and Provisional IRAs in Ballymurphy, only to be shafted down the line. Victor told the press, "I never thought the day would come when it would be the Provos killing us."

The extended Notarantonio family were the target of a fire bomb campaign in the wake of the 2006 killing of Gerard Devlin. While it was easy for many to lay the blame at the door of relatives and friends of "Dev," infuriated at the death of their loved one at the hands of one of Victor’s sons, much of the burning was orchestrated by the Provisionals in a score settling exercise. Although he had great relations with many in the Provos Victor always felt there was an underlying tension with key leadership elements because of a belief on their part that he had been the IRA volunteer responsible for kneecapping a brother of Gerry Adams back in the 1970s. Many times, when I was in the home prior to the killing of his nephew Joe O’Connor, Provisionals would call to see Victor and were undoubtedly friendly with him. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that he was in some way linked to the financial side of the organisation. He specialised in the acquisition and distribution of cigarettes.

At one point he went down to see the late Denis Donaldson in his remote cottage in Glenties, Donegal. He explained to me his reasoning behind the trip, feeling that the British agent might be able to provide him with some understanding of why there was such animosity from leadership towards his wider family circle. 

That there was a volley of shots fired over his coffin suggests that if he was not a volunteer with one of the many republican groups that populate the nationalist political landscape, at the time of his death, he was held in high esteem by many from that quarter.

I found him a great friend. The last time we met was by chance in Dundalk, where he was shopping in the main street with his wife Kate. In the days before he died I tried ringing the house as he was expecting a call from me but the phone was permanently engaged, so many wanted to share a few last words with him.

The chance for a final spoken exchange might have been missed but the opportunity to remember him in written form was not something I was prepared to forsake.

Slan Vic.


Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre      




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