Jeremy Corbyn came the closest he has ever done yesterday to denouncing the IRA.
Even so, there was still some moral equivalence to his team’s answers (on his behalf) to questions posed by the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire.
Note for example after answering the question of were the IRA terrorists? the reply is: “Yes. The IRA clearly committed acts of terrorism.”
The answer seems clear but then seems to leave open the possibility that they committed acts that were not terrorism.
And when asked if, in light of John McDonnell’s comment that “no cause is worth an innocent life,” Mr Corbyn included the Royal Ulster Constabulary and members of the Armed Forces in that, the reply from Labour was: “Yes. All loss of life is tragic, as John McDonnell has said.”
Again, by moving the answer on to “all loss of life is tragic” edges towards Sinn Fein-speak about ‘regretting all deaths’.
However, Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell have, via this party reply, been put on record as denying that they considered the armed forces and the IRA as ‘equivalent’ participants.
The party has also said: “Jeremy has said that the he was opposed to the IRA’s armed campaign.”
That clarity is welcome, but it is extraordinary it took so long.
On many occasions since the 1980s Mr Corbyn has either acted in a way that suggested sympathy for the IRA (inviting Sinn Fein to Westminster weeks after the Brighton bomb, standing in silence for the Loughgall murder gang) or declined specific opportunities to condemn terror. This hesitancy alone shows he is utterly unsuited to becoming prime minister.
It is welcome that Mr Brokenshire has posed the questions. For many years, NIO ministers have stood silently neutral while nationalism pushes and expands and Irish ministers have backed resulting demands . There have been recent indications that this failed UK strategy is coming to an end.
In the meantime, it would be interesting to get answers from public figures on both sides of the Irish border as to their position on the legitimacy or otherwise of the IRA.