Gerry Adams gets a lot of criticism for continuing with his claims never to have joined the IRA. Few believe him and many laugh at him.
Yet there is a simple reason why he can’t say he was a member.
As Mitchel McLaughlin put it on the BBC recently, the next question would be why he wasn’t arrested and charged.
There is no amnesty for events during the Troubles as was shown when the PSNI sought possession of tapes in Boston College’s Belfast project on which former republicans and loyalists give accounts of their para-military careers. The stated reason is to bring charges for the abduction and murder of Jean McConville.
The fact that the law against IRA membership is not a dead letter was shown this month when five people were charged. Alleged loyalists terrorists have also faced charges as a result of HET investigations and there is the possibility of former soldiers facing trial over the Bloody Sunday shootings.
Martin McGuinness claims to have left the IRA in 1974, the last date on which he was convicted of membership. Saying he was involved after that would lay him open to charges, minister or not.
There is an unavoidable trade off between truth and justice which means that we won’t hear the full truth as long as those who fess up voluntarily face criminal prosecution.