19 May 2006

Several Afghans threaten to jump

RTÉ

19 May 2006 17:49

Several of the Afghan hunger strikers at St Patrick's Cathedral have threatened to jump from the organ loft in the building.

A statement from the Church of Ireland this evening confirmed that they are now pursuing legal options to bring the stand-off to an end.

Earlier, one of the hunger strikers was taken away from the cathedral. He was taken out on a stretcher to an ambulance which had arrived there at about 4pm.
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Just before 3pm, more garda vans had arrived at the main entrance to the building, and 20 additional gardaí went inside.

Fifteen officers entered the cathedral shortly after 9am this morning, while at least 30 other officers were stationed in groups around the building.

One of the Afghan youths on hunger strike claimed the gardaí had given a 7pm deadline for the protest to end.

The 17-year-old claimed they had been told if they did not leave by then they would be arrested and put into prison.

An eighth minor was made a ward of court this afternoon.

However, the President of the High Court refused an request that the gardaí take the minors into custody when he made seven of them wards of court at the request of the HSE this morning.

Church of Ireland representatives have asked the men to leave the Cathedral.

A spokesperson said the request had been made in the light of threats made by the men to take their own lives.

The spokesperson said that threats of self-harm were not acceptable.

The spokesperson refused to confirm whether or not they would be requesting gardaí to remove the men.

Earlier, the hunger strikers were reported to have threatened to kill themselves if any attempt is made to remove them.

A spokesperson for Residents Against Racism, Henry Dent, criticised the garda operation and said there was an unnecessary number of gardaí in the area.

The group had earlier claimed some of the men attempted to commit suicide last night.

Rosanna Flynn of the group said that she was not aware if the men were injured or had received medical attention.

A number of garda vans are parked on nearby Kevin Street. St Patrick's Close was earlier sealed off by gardaí.

So far, there does not seem to have been any attempt to remove the Afghan protestors, who are on the sixth day of a hunger strike.

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