The latest Andersonstown News has an interesting line (subs needed) on the question of criminality. The prime target is the charge from the PDs that all acts of violence of IRA were criminal.
The killing of Jean McConville was an abomination. The laws of the land decreed it a crime. But whether those who carried out that grim deed viewed themselves as criminals is another issue altogether. In fact, it’s a core republican belief — eventually accepted by British and Irish authorities after lengthy prison protests — that they were in fact soldiers at war. Even wars, of course, have codes of conduct and it would be a foolish person indeed who would say those rules were never broken by the IRA — or the other participants.
But it argues that there is no way, retrospectively at least, that the IRA could accept the charge of criminality:
Was every IRA member who picked up a gun in a society where peaceful change had been stymied a criminal? And was everyone who provided a safe house for republicans on the run commiting a crime? The law says they were. The PDs believe that to be the case. The majority of nationalists, however, especially those in the frontline in areas such as Ardoyne and Crossmaglen, beg to differ.