There's no way I would ever say that some of my best friends are terrorists.
For I detest and despise what republicans and loyalists have done in pursuit of their twisted ideals.
But like many other journalists of a certain vintage who covered the Troubles, I got to know countless paramilitary figures down the years. We had no choice.
Establishing working relationships with them came with the territory of terrorism and it gave me and other reporters an insight into what really made many of them tick.
I mention this only because in the wake of the death of IRA man Bobby Storey last week, I received a few nasty barbs from loyalists after I wrote an article about him which included references to the softer side I'd seen of him during his encounters with his family. I was fawning over Storey, apparently.
I was also castigated by republicans who didn't like what I wrote about the harder side of Storey, who was undoubtedly one of the most influential IRA figures of the conflict.
I know that most people here would hold the view that due to the inhumanity of their terrorism, the men and women of violence lost all right to be classed as human beings.
I can understand what the critics mean but I spent many long hours with some well-known loyalists and republicans who could talk about everything under the sun, including their families, their hobbies and football, and who in later life tried to assure all and sundry that they were trying to put their past in the past by pursuing politics and charitable interests.
As we spoke, I could never completely erase their shocking actions from my mind.
But I was later to host charity events for organisations whose members included former members of terror groups, just as I compered similar functions for political parties including among others the DUP, the SDLP and Sinn Fein.
For nearly 20 years I hosted the Aisling Awards organised by the Andersonstown News in west Belfast and compered a kids' talent competition for the Feile, a show that Gerry Adams turned up at every year to support.
I also took part in charity fundraisers for the foundation set up after the death of David Ervine. But the organisers of any event I attended always knew I wasn't there to endorse their politics or policies but rather their good causes.
In the world of theatre I worked with former activists of all hues who wrote plays about the conflict or were acting in dramas about the Troubles.
Many of the anecdotes I heard in the bar after the curtains came down were just as illuminating as what had been portrayed on stage.
But as I listened to anyone anywhere talking about the Troubles, I tried to never lose sight of the victims that I had reported on through the decades of violence, and to remember their stories. Thoughts of their experiences made it easy to draw the line in dealings with terrorists who sometimes surprised me with touching gestures like offering their condolences after the deaths of my parents.
But I had to draw the line with one representative of a group who regularly contacted me to brief me about his organisation's thinking and to issue statements claiming responsibility for their dreadful atrocities.
One day he suggested that I might like to join him for a Christmas drink.
It wasn't hard to say no to the idea of celebrating the most joyous time of the year with someone whose allies had brought misery for so many people, every day of every year.