Dolours Price was a tortured soul. I suspect she had more humanity than she was willing to admit, and that she struggled with a conscience she denied.
Deny it she did, though. Last year she brought the spotlight back onto her past when she gave interviews in which she admitted that in 1972 she drove the car in which Jean McConville was taken away to be murdered. Asked by a CBS reporter if this bothered her, she replied: "No. Not at all."
It was a shocking moment, a further act of violence to members of the McConville family who have suffered unimaginable anguish during the 40 years since their mother was "disappeared". Dolours Price was not thinking of them, however. She was consumed by her obsession with exposing what she saw as the hypocrisy of Gerry Adams. She claimed, entirely plausibly, that it was him who sent her to London to bomb the Old Bailey, and that he was involved in the decision to murder Jean McConville.
Price presented herself as a woman as hard as a bullet, an elite IRA soldier full of contempt for those who sent her out to kill only to abandon the struggle for reasons she despised.
Yet there was a vulnerability behind those kohl-rimmed eyes, and the suffering she tried over the years to alleviate with alcohol and drugs cannot all be put down to bitterness about what she saw as the betrayal of the cause for which she sacrificed other lives, but almost also her own. She did not think the Good Friday Agreement was worth those sacrifices.
I knew her slightly, and interviewed her a few years ago as part of a film about the former IRA leader Joe Cahill. I knew she had deliberately driven her car down the Falls Road when it was closed to allow his funeral cortege to pass, and wanted to know why she had felt it important to show such disrespect. Rage rendered her incoherent. The film makers could not use the interview, and had the bad manners not to tell her. She rang me and denounced me as a scumbag.
Price spent years of her young life in jail, and she and her sister Marian irreparably damaged their health when they spent lengthy periods on hunger strike, interrupted by periods when they were force fed. Marian Price is back in jail, in circumstances which are manifestly unjust.
Price's death is a tragedy for her family, particularly for her fine young sons. We don't know the full story and they deserve privacy. She has joined the sad ranks of the many people, victims and perpetrators, who never recovered from the damage done by the killing years, leaving a legacy of pain and sorrow.