Republicans believe there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us as the crowds at Bobby Storey's funeral demonstrated
American writer Toni Morrison once observed: "Now that I'm 84, I remember everything as a mistake, and I regret everything. I go back over my life and you pick up, 'Oh, what did I do that for? Why didn't you understand this'?"
Republicans seem to be immune from that kind of piercingly honest self-reflection. Instead, they wallow in nostalgia for a period of Northern Ireland's history that most normal people look back on with dread and outrage.
Gerry Adams' eulogy at the funeral of Bobby Storey on Tuesday was another masterclass in mawkish remembrance. Standing at the graveside in Milltown Cemetery, the former Sinn Fein leader described "Big Bob", who died in England last week at the age of 64 following lung transplant surgery, as "selfless", "gentle", and "kind", with an "infectious humour", adding: "The craic around Bobby was mighty."
It's like living in a parallel universe. Suffice to say that victims of the IRA are far less concerned with how much fun men like Bobby Storey were to be around when they were relaxing out of hours with like-minded comrades than they are with what these men were prepared to do in the name of Ireland when they pulled on the balaclava and headed out for another night's work. There wasn't much kindness and gentleness then.
There's no point expecting better from Gerry Adams. He's many things, but a deep thinker was never one of them. He wasn't really talking about Bobby Storey anyway.
Eulogies are always about the person delivering them. They say the things about the dead that they want to be said about themselves when the time comes.
But sentimental blather about the past still needs to be challenged, because it's being abused in the present day to retrospectively justify the murder of thousands of people. It's this project which Sinn Fein's current leader, Mary Lou McDonald, appears to be full throatedly endorsing every time she parrots this blood and thunder rhetoric about glorious resistance to "England's rule". She had the chance to strike a different path, but chose to fall in line and make excuses for terrorism too.
Of course, if anyone on the other side dared to defend the British Army or RUC, modern day republicans would accuse them of whitewashing "colonialist" crimes; but then that's Sinn Fein's way too. It's always one rule for them, and another for everyone else.
The sight of hundreds of supporters lining the streets of west Belfast for Storey's funeral, in defiance of social distancing guidelines, was simply the latest example of that.
The mourners might well retort: Why not?
Everyone else seems to be doing their own thing when it comes to Covid-19, after all.
They may even have a point there.
As joint partners in the Executive, Sinn Fein only released updated guidelines on Monday increasing the number of people allowed to meet up in public spaces from 10 to 30, and by Tuesday morning that number had apparently increased again to however many they felt like - but only for those who want to see Irish unity.
Apparently, the coronavirus has mutated to such a degree that it's now able to distinguish between people based on their political beliefs, and makes an exception for United Irelanders.
Republicans have demonstrated often enough down the years that they consider themselves to be a special case. That's why there was no mention on Tuesday of James Ferris.
Well, exactly. Few remember his name, but he was the prison officer who was stabbed in the chest with a craft knife and died of a heart attack during the 1983 breakout from the Maze in which the "kind" and "gentle" Bobby Storey played an enthusiastic part. Provos now remember that day as "The Great Escape", as if they were all Steve McQueen leaping majestically over the perimeter fence on a motorbike, but it wasn't quite as romantic as that.
As well as the stabbing of Ferris, two more prison officers were shot, including one in the head by Gerry Kelly, now an MLA and junior minister at Stormont. (Both those victims mercifully survived). Little else is known about the man who died, except that he was 43, married, and from Donaghadee.
Much more is known about Bobby Storey, not least that he got to enjoy 21 more years of this life than he and his fellow members of the IRA were prepared to give to James Ferris.
But don't worry about those little footnotes of history, Gerry Adams seems to be saying, because Bobby Storey liked to tell funny stories. With social distancing abandoned for the day, let's just hope no one has to pay for hearing those punchlines again with a visit to the ICU ward in the near future.