Mary Lou Mc Donald claims that the "IRA doesn't exist". Thank God and all the Holy Saints for that - we can all now sleep soundly. Her pronouncement was uttered with such unblinking conviction that it's hard not to take her at her word, so let us all do just that.
he might wish to answer when they stopped existing, just to put our minds further at rest. After all, it wouldn't do to have the Boys of the Old Brigade sniffing around the Cabinet table anytime soon tainting all those shiny new TDs.
We know (even if she doesn't) that they still existed in 2007 when Paul Quinn was beaten to death, because Conor Murphy told the public he had ''received assurances'' that the IRA were not involved, and he obviously believed this (even if we didn't). They hadn't gone away in 2013 either, when Gerry Adams travelled with Austin Stack in a blacked-out van to meet an IRA representative who provided a statement saying that the organisation admitted responsibility for his father Brian's murder.
We know they were still kicking around in 2015 after the murder of Belfast man Kevin McGuigan, because the former Northern Irish Chief Constable George Hamilton told us that although they were not on a "war footing", the army council was still in existence then and individual IRA members were responsible.
So, when exactly did they disband? And more importantly, how does McDonald know this? Who told her? The Sinn Fein leader also informs us that the Sinn Fein leadership run Sinn Fein. Good to know. In future we all know to hold the party collectively responsible the next time an IRA atrocity blows up, excuse the pun, and Sinn Fein dances on the head of a pin in its response. Can't blame the IRA for that, now.
Gerry Adams, writing in his blog last Friday about "shadowy friggers", raises further questions for those of us seeking answers to the timing of the mysterious disappearance of the IRA by detailing a litany of events that senior republicans, some of them former IRA men - including Padraic Wilson, Bobby Storey, Martin Lynch and Spike Murray - had appeared at as part of various Sinn Fein negotiating teams with successive British and Irish governments.
Were any of these men -with the exception of Lynch, now the ''six-county political director'' - elected at a SF Ard Fheis to their Ard Chomhairle? If not, why exactly are they negotiating on behalf of the party in highly sensitive matters such as legacy, with governments? Who appointed them and what role have they been playing? And why these men and not capable figures like Eoin O Broin and Pearse Doherty, who actually do have a mandate from voters?
These are legitimate questions, given that some of those named have featured prominently in the news over the years, yet not as Sinn Fein spokespeople. The least you can expect from any political party is accountability. It's hard to hold people accountable if they appear in backroom negotiations and rarely, if ever, are in front of a camera answering questions.
Separately, I believe that former members of paramilitary groups are capable of contributing to society. They are entitled to rebuild their lives and work in their communities, and plenty do. That does not extend, though, to people who do not take responsibility, who continue to cover up atrocities and smear victims, and who continue to serve - in 2020 - as members of an army council which still exists, according to the Garda Commissioner, who agrees with a previous report stating they effectively run SF with an ''overarching strategy''. An organisation which is reported by those of reputable standing to still have intelligence gathering and fundraising departments. What's that all about? Is it the case that the so-far unnamed greying old men of the IRA need to play Dad's Army to feel important?
Or is this small cabal of clearly influential people really who you are casting your vote for when you think you are voting for SF? And why are people like Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar being personally maligned for raising these concerns?
The bigger question for everyone is this: McDonald is clearly an effective performer who is adept at the rough and tumble of politics. Why exactly do the army council of the IRA feel they need to stay around to control the party which she is supposed to be the leader of? She does not believe that is the case, and so, should have no problem stating that unelected IRA godfathers have no place directing politics, or sticking their nebs into future government business. We would all benefit if they retired disgracefully, and disbanded into the shadows for good.