Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that recent remarks she made about the IRA were not meant as a justification.
She said she understood the horror and pain experienced by people during the Troubles.
While the armed campaign by the IRA had been “justified to take on the British state” in the circumstances of the time, she never wanted to go back to that scenario, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney show.
Ms McDonald said she had not lived through the Troubles, but people had lived in circumstances at the time where whole sections of society had no prospect of jobs, no votes and there was internment.
“I made the simple point that any person faced with that scenario might have become embroiled in it and might have volunteered with the IRA.”
Ms McDonald said it was not her role to have to justify anything other than her job and efforts to “build a better life for all of us.”
The comments had not been made with the intent of causing hurt or distress to victims or to those who were bereaved, she said.
“I am in the very lucky position that I have never had to make that decision … at no stage have I picked up a gun or hurt another human being.”
The Sinn Féin leader also called for greater engagement with the childcare sector as it was essential that childcare workers have jobs to which they could return and so that parents would have places for their children.
The wages of childcare workers should be continued until the end of the year to provide certainty for the sector and families.
“We need to find every way to facilitate the reopening of early education to ensure childcare workers have jobs to go back to and the parents have spaces,” she told RTÉ radio's Today with Sarah McInerney show.
“I think a good first step is to say very clearly that the State will continue to cover childcare workers for the next 28 weeks, in other words, up to the end of the year.
“As a State we're going to have to borrow, we're not proposing any 'money tree' - I'm stating the bald fact that we rightly closed the economy, but we now have to re-open, and that means we have to continue supports.
“Now as we face the challenge of re-opening, we need to look very carefully at what supports the sector needs.”