There were two issues related to the funeral of Provisional IRA enforcer Bobby Storey which should cause deep concern for anybody with respect for democracy and the rule of law. The first was Sinn Fein's obvious disregard for Covid-19 social distancing rules at the funeral, which was attended by nearly 1,800 men and women dressed in casual paramilitary garb of black trousers, white shirts and black ties, lined up along black flag-draped streets. In itself this was an indication that the party and its supporters believed themselves above the law as was necessarily applied to thousands of families the length and breadth of the island in recent months, a request adhered to with stoicism and dignity by many grieving families at a time of such sadness for them personally and the communities from which they were drawn. That should be a cause of shame for Sinn Fein.
The other serious issue was a subsequent statement by the party leader Mary Lou McDonald that, as Taoiseach, she would have attended the funeral of Mr Storey, the so-called 'director of intelligence' of the IRA at the height of the Troubles.
In effect, Ms McDonald, now the leader of the largest political party in opposition in the Republic, was admitting that, as Taoiseach, she would have represented the Government at the funeral of - in the words of a former Chief Justice and former Minister for Justice here - one of the most senior figures in an organisation "whose object was to overthrow the State and its institutions, if necessary by force". In short, the funeral of a man like Mr Storey is no place for any Taoiseach to be in attendance.
Since replacing Gerry Adams as Sinn Fein leader, Ms McDonald has been successful in dramatically improving her party's popularity with the electorate. How many of those drawn to Sinn Fein candidates by Sinn Fein's alternative policies and her own charismatic leadership would have considered it appropriate for the head of Government to attend last week's funeral? Most would say she should have stayed at home, in the interests of public health, but it seems hard-core republicanism demanded otherwise.
That these events have occurred in a week when Ms McDonald revealed a frontbench of many talented colleagues to hold to account the new Government here, complete with a photo opportunity on the plinth of Leinster House where politicians maintained strict social distancing rules, also reveal of dichotomy, not to mention hypocrisy, at the heart of the so-called Republican movement, north and south.
Sinn Fein has vital functions to perform in Dail Eireann, and undoubtedly has many capable TDs and senators up to that task, but this latest stark reminder of where lies the internal power and authority of that party should remain a cause of great concern. The controversy in Belfast last week may well soon pass, as the public tends to file such events into the burgeoning catalogue of Sinn Fein/IRA's past deeds, but they are another reminder of the party's day-to-day present under the leadership of a woman who would like to call herself Taoiseach one day.