Senior republican politician Francis Mackey and two other members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement were detained by authorities at a Canadian airport this week and taken to a high-security prison.
The three men had arrived in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport ahead of a six-day long speaking tour on Wednesday when they were taken into custody. No reason was given by the Canadian authorities for the detention.
According to a statement released by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Mr Mackey, Peter Fitzsimons and Martin Rafferty were interrogated and informed that they were being denied entry into Canada. The three were then summarily transported to prison and were due to be deported back to Ireland.
“Peter is currently being held in Maplehearst Detention Centre, which is a maximum security prison for those awaiting trial,” said a spokesperson. “If they contest this and have a hearing they were told that they would be held in remand for up to two weeks.”
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement is a political organisation formed 17 years ago in opposition to the negotiations between Sinn Fein, unionists and the British government which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Although once reputed to have links to the breakaway ‘Real IRA’, it is not a proscribed (illegal) organisation in either Ireland or Canada.
The group said the detention of its three members was an attempt at censorship and organised a protest outside the Canadian Embassy in Dublin.
“The 32 County Sovereignty Movement are not a proscribed organisation in Canada so this is clearly politically motivated and an attempt to stop the 32 County Sovereignty Movement from getting its message out and to explain to people nothing has changed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and that the root cause of conflict has not been addressed and that is - the violation of Irish National Sovereignty.”
A spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency told journalists it would “not confirm nor deny” its actions in the matter, nor reveal any reasoning behind the exclusion.
“All persons must demonstrate they meet the requirements to enter and/or stay in Canada,” he said. “Several factors are used in determining admissibility into Canada, including involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations, in organised crime, security, health or financial reasons.”
When asked if the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is banned in Canada, the spokesman referred to a list of banned organisations on which the group does not appear.
The 32CSM said the incident mirrored a similar action taken by the US authorities at the request of the London and Dublin governments to prohibit the organisation from travelling to the United Nations where they planned to protest the violation of Irish national sovereignty by the Westminster Parliament.
Meanwhile, it was also announced this week that the Dublin government plans a raft of new legislation to suppress republican “terrorism”. The proposed new offences are public provocation to commit an offence, recruitment, and training.
The sweeping “provocation” offence could apply to a republican or any other political leader who is deemed to have used a public oration or interview to incite others to break the law.
The 32CSM condemned what it said was “anti-free speech legislation”. It said the the new 26-County Justice Minister, Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, was deliberately targeting republicans to stifle debate on the root cause of the conflict in the north of Ireland in the run up to the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
“Republicans will not be silenced by those who crave power ahead of truth,” they said in a statement.