The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, often abbreviated to 32CSM or 32csm, an Irish republican group that is founded by Bernadette Sands McKevitt, launches a major recruitment campaign in west Belfast on April 17, 1999.
The objectives of the 32CSM are:
- The restoration of Irish national sovereignty.
- To seek to achieve unity among the Irish people on the issue of restoring national sovereignty and to promote the revolutionary ideals of republicanism and to this end involve itself in resisting all forms of colonialism and imperialism.
- To seek the immediate and unconditional release of all Irish republican prisoners throughout the world.
The 32CSM does not contest elections but acts as a pressure group, with branches, or cumainn, organised throughout the traditional counties of Ireland. It has been described as the “political wing” of the now defunct Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA or RIRA), but this is denied by both organisations. The group originates in a split from Sinn Féin over the Mitchell Principles.
The organisation is founded on December 7, 1997, at a meeting of like-minded Irish republicans in the Dublin suburb of Finglas. Those present are opposed to the direction taken by Sinn Féin and other mainstream republican groups in the Northern Ireland peace process, which eventually leads to the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, the following year. The same division in the republican movement leads to the paramilitary group now known as the Real IRA breaking away from the Provisional Irish Republican Army at around the same time.
Most of the 32CSM’s founders had been members of Sinn Féin, with some having been expelled from the party for challenging the leadership’s direction, while others felt they had not been properly able to air their concerns within Sinn Féin at the direction its leadership had taken. Bernadette Sands McKevitt, wife of Michael McKevitt and a sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands, is a prominent member of the group until a split in the organisation.
The name refers to the 32 counties of Ireland which were created during the Lordship of Ireland and Kingdom of Ireland. With the partition of Ireland in 1920–22, twenty-six of these counties form the Irish Free State which is abolished in 1937 and is now known as Ireland since 1949. The remaining six counties of Northern Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom. Founder Bernadette Sands McKevitt says in a 1998 interview with The Mirror that people did not fight for “peace” – “they fought for independence” – and that the organisation reaffirms to the republican position in the 1919 Irish Declaration of Independence.
Before the referendums on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the 32CSM lodges a legal submission with the United Nations challenging British sovereignty in Ireland. The referendums are opposed by the 32CSM but are supported by 71% of voters in Northern Ireland and by 94% in the Republic of Ireland. It is reported in February 2000 that the group had established a “branch” in Kilburn, London.
In November 2005, the 32CSM launches a political initiative titled Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity.
On May 24, 2014, Gary Donnelly, a member of the 32CSM, is elected to the Derry and Strabane super council. In July 2014, a delegation from the 32CSM travels to Canada to take part in a six-day speaking tour. On arrival the delegation is detained and refused entry into Canada.
The 32CSM has protested against what it calls “internment by remand” in both jurisdictions in Ireland. Other protests include ones against former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley in Cobh, County Cork, against former British Prime Minister John Major being given the Keys to Cork city, against a visit to the Republic of Ireland by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) head Sir Hugh Orde, and against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.
In 2015, the 32CSM organises a demonstration in Dundee, Scotland, in solidarity with the men convicted of shooting Constable Stephen Carroll, the first police officer to be killed in Northern Ireland since the formation of the PSNI. The organisation says the “Craigavon Two” are innocent and are victims of a miscarriage of justice.
The 32CSM also operates outside of the island of Ireland to some extent. The Gaughan/Stagg Cumann covers England, Scotland and Wales, and has an active relationship of mutual promotion with a minority of British left-wing groups and anti-fascist organisations. The James Larkin Republican Flute Band in Liverpool and the West of Scotland Band Alliance, the largest section of which is the Glasgow-based Parkhead Republican Flute Band, are also supporters of the 32CSM. As of 2014, the 32CSM’s alleged paramilitary wing, the Real IRA, is reported to still be involved in attempts to perpetrate bombings in Britain as part of the dissident Irish republican campaign, which has been ongoing since 1998.
The 32CSM is currently considered a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in the United States, because it is considered to be inseparable from the Real IRA, which is designated as an FTO. At a briefing in 2001, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State states that “evidence provided by both the British and Irish governments and open-source materials demonstrate clearly that the individuals who created the Real IRA also established these two entities to serve as the public face of the Real IRA. These alias organizations engage in propaganda and fundraising on behalf of and in collaboration with the Real IRA.” The U.S. Department of State’s designation makes it illegal for Americans to provide material support to the Real IRA, requires U.S. financial institutions to block the group’s assets and denies alleged Real IRA members travel visas into the United States.