There is much to be admired about the Sinn Fein president, Mary Lou McDonald. She is an articulate politician and a staunch advocate for social change. Ms McDonald is clearly a vote-getter, but, more importantly, she is not Gerry Adams.
Had her party run enough candidates in the recent Irish general election, almost certainly she could have been Tanaiste, if not Taoiseach, by now.
The Irish electorate has never been bothered much by Sinn Fein's past, or the north in general, when it come to voting.
Ms McDonald and her coterie of polished front-bench representatives learned a lesson from previous elections; this time putting Northern Ireland on the back-burner, while concentrating on sweeping up the anger of the Irish public against the status quo and the establishment.
If current opinion polls are correct, the Irish public appear to be reverting to the safety of a traditional party of government (ie Fine Gael).
But Ms McDonald seems comfortable and ready to take on the mantle of Opposition leader. Protesting too much for a few years will suit Sinn Fein.
Such is the standing of Ms McDonald in the Anglo-Irish arena that she publicly acknowledged correspondence from none other than Prince Charles following her illness with Covid-19. She seemed chuffed.
In the same interview with the Sunday Independent, responding to a question as to whether she would have joined the IRA, Ms McDonald did not duck the question with an evasive answer. She said, yes, there was every chance, every possibility.
A remarkable answer for a woman who was privately educated behind the exclusive walls of Notre Dame de Missions in Dublin. The bullets of the IRA, which travel not only through bodies, but time, never pierced the comfortable world of the young Ms McDonald.
Her retrospective view of the republican movement in the 1970s and 1980s is blurred by romanticised propaganda, jaundiced through green-tinted glasses.
Her comments made me recall former SDLP agriculture minister Brid Rodgers once saying that, growing up in Donegal, she was reared on stories about the exploits of the legendary republican Dan Breen and the flying columns.
Unlike Ms McDonald, Brid Rodgers did not carry through any of this hagiography into her politics, nor would she ever be found eulogising the Nazi admirer and IRA leader Sean Russell, or for that matter Dan Breen, who wasn't far behind in his Nazi sympathies.
The fact that Ms McDonald, who was brought up geographically, physically, educationally, emotionally and socially miles away from the Troubles, felt the need to publicly speculate on something like joining the IRA, which was never on her radar, is testimony to the grip of the paramilitary remnants within Sinn Fein hierarchy.
This is not, as McDonald claims, a sign of the progress of the peace process, but a sign of control not yet surrendered to the politicos.
In the Sunday Independent interview, Ms McDonald seems to believe that, because one lived in Belfast, Tyrone or Derry, it was inevitable that one would join the IRA.
She labours with the misguided notion that the majority of those who, in her words, "lived through it", flocked to the standard of the IRA.
Let's dispel that whopper - they did not. As one who lived through it, like the majority of my counterparts, we were kept away from the clutches of shadowy figures in the IRA by our parents.
From our housing estates in the 1970s emerged a whole legion of teachers, lawyers, doctors, tradesmen, clerks and even clergy.
Our parents may not have been able to afford Notre Dame de Missions, but they made sure we got schooled.
The Troubles were an everyday factor of life in Newry and certainly the British Army and the RUC were contributory factors to the violence.
But, back then, the greatest fear among the majority of parents was the all-too-real prospect of their children languishing in jails because of IRA membership, so, they turned us towards education and the voice they listened to was that of John Hume, not Ruari O Bradaigh.
Hume was etched in Derry and it in him and yet not once he did advocate turning to the IRA, or any other purveyor of violence to redress political issues.
He asked people to expend sweat, not blood; to live for their country, not to kill, or die, for it. The contrast could not be more stark from the sterility of the IRA strategy.
Ms McDonald, during her interview, also seems to believe that the IRA campaign was justified. Her timing for such comments could not have been worse.
As her interview was being published, her deputy, Michelle O'Neill, and the DUP's Arlene Foster were waxing lyrical about how the Covid-19 crisis had brought them closer together.
Political unionists will squirm at the thought of the Sinn Fein president trying to legitimise IRA violence. It certainly doesn't make life any easier for Mrs Foster, the First Minister.
Many thousands of innocent IRA victims of the Troubles will see no justification for the conflict and even less justice for their deceased relatives.
Perhaps Ms McDonald is not able to escape the justified war narrative of her mentors - especially that of Gerry Adams. She admits that she was a favourite.
When all is said and done, the process of selection to the presidency of Sinn Fein was more of an anointment than an appointment; more selection than election.
Indeed, there is more transparency among a conclave of cardinals than the Sinn Fein ard comhairle when it comes to choosing a leader, or for that matter, a deputy leader (as John O'Dowd found out).
Ms McDonald is a pragmatist. She will know that keeping an eye to the future with a foot stuck in the past is not going to fuel the growth of Sinn Fein in the Republic of Ireland. The north is a different story.
Electorally, Sinn Fein came very close to being in power on both sides of the island. Unionists were not ready for such a change. In fairness, neither was Sinn Fein.
The two jurisdictions often have different - and, at times, competing - needs, all requiring bespoke solutions.
Being in charge in both camps will be challenging and those differences won't be easily covered up with a rendition of A Nation Once Again at the ard fheis.
Ms McDonald is a politician with much promise, but the pitfalls which lie ahead are those she appears to dig for herself.
To be an agent for change, the change has to come from within.
Just how much the Sinn Fein president is up for that remains to be seen.
Tom Kelly is a writer and commentator
Lockdown has been good for me. Despite missing my family, after hurtling through the last six years since I waived anonymity at breakneck speed I finally have some time to myself.
Eilis O'Hanlon Premium
After three decades under a man who insists that despite growing up oppressed by the Brits in west Belfast he never once joined the IRA, Sinn Fein now has a leader who, despite being born in a leafy, middle-class area of Dublin, says "there'd be every chance" she would have joined the IRA if she'd been in the same boat. It's a wonder republican voters can keep up.