"MAKE no mistake about it,” President Joe Biden said, looking into the camera. “Putin killed Navalny.” And then, as if afraid we hadn’t heard, he repeated it more slowly: “Putin. Killed. Navalny!”

Biden didn’t mean that Putin travelled to the Arctic Circle penal camp where Alexei Navalny was being kept and killed him. He meant that responsibility for the Russian dissident’s death could be laid firmly at the feet of the Russian President. 

Context is important. Every word uttered by Joe Biden between now and the November Presidential election will be used to help him return to the White House. In the case of Navalny, of course, he was saying what most of us were thinking: instructions and orders from Putin were behind the death of this brave Russian.

So before we draw our moral garments too tightly around us, let’s remember that the guy doing the killing may simply be following orders. When we remember that, Biden’s moral indignation begins to look a bit frayed. 

Since the end of the Second World War, the US has provided Israel with somewhere between $3 and $4 billion annually, or $260 billion in total. Since October 7 of last year, Biden has provided Israel with £14.2 billion. That kind of money buys an awful lot of weaponry, and Israel has done just that.

Meanwhile, on another front, Biden has provided Ukraine with $112 billion to help it in its war with Russia. Is there any end to US generosity in handing out instruments of death?

So next time you see a news report from Gaza showing terrified men, women and children, it would not be too much of a stretch to say “Biden is murdering these Palestinians." You could repeat it if you wished. And while it’s not as widely reported, it’s a reasonable guess that the $112 billion helped kill some Russian civilians as well as Russian soldiers. 

The advice offered us in Ireland so often by the US, that we should work out our differences by peaceful democratic means, now sounds trite and hypocritical. 

Not that Biden is the exception. In 1992, Bill Clinton left the Presidential campaign trail so he could be home in Arkansas for the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. The executed man was mentally disabled, even telling guards that he would eat the pecan pie from his final meal “later”.

And of course Harry Truman didn’t drop atom bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but his orders meant they were dropped. A total of some  220,000 innocent Japanese were killed.

So while the death of Navalny was almost certainly on the orders of Putin, the idea of moral finger-wagging from the US President provokes a bitter laugh from those who reject the black hat-white hat categories.

Given all of that, should Sinn Féin have shown their disgust with Biden backing Israel in slaughtering Palestinians and refused the St Patrick’s Day invitation to the White House?  Colum Eastwood has said he’s not going. If absenteeism is good enough for the SDLP, shouldn’t it be good enough for Sinn Féin?

The answer to that came in an interview on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show last Friday. Patrick Kielty interviewed the North’s new First Minister Michelle O’Neill  and asked if her party would have been better staying at home in protest. “If people hadn’t talked to each other, we’d never have had the Good Friday Agreement,” Michelle answered.

Sinn Féin appear to have learned a lot about how politics works over the past 25 years. And RTÉ appears to have learned that trying to put a black hat on a Sinn Féin leader, as they did back in the day with Gerry Adams, simply doesn’t work any more.

Resplendent in a red trouser suit and high high-heels, Michelle sailed sure-footed through Kielty’s questions, evoking applause, whoops and whistles from the studio audience.

And no, Virginia, Michelle was not asked when she last went to Confession.