A week-long hunger and thirst strike by Afghan asylum-seekers protest in St Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin was dramatically ended late on Saturday night as garda police stormed the church.
Thirty-three of the men, some of whom had threatened to hang themselves from a church balcony, were charged at Dublin District Court in relation to forcible entry.
The men, who are aged from their late teens to their 60s, have been ordered to reside at designated hostels in Dublin and have been ordered to stay away from St Patrick’s cathedral.
On Saturday afternoon, Church of Ireland authorities had negotiated a deal with the Afghans. It involved all of them leaving the cathedral and attending a meeting with officials from the Department of Justice to discuss their cases. The Afghans were to be permitted to bring human rights observers of their choice to the meeting.
However, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell rejected the deal. He instructed the church authorities to desist from negotiating with the men and told them to allow gardaí to assume complete control of the situation.
The protest had not been “simply spontaneous”, said Mr McDowell, claiming the men had been assisted by unnamed outside forces. He praised the police action and insisted that any concessions made to the men would have led to further protests.
About 60 anti-racism protesters had gathered at St Patrick’s Close and clashed with Garda after attempting to block the road.
Sinn Féin’s Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, welcomed the news “that the hunger strike in St Patrick’s Cathedral by Afghani asylum seekers has ended without loss of life.”
Cllr. Doolan called on Michael McDowell, “to immediately set about reviewing the men’s cases, taking into consideration the escalation in violence in Afghanistan, and if there is any threat to these men in Afghanistan then none should be sent back.”