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Former priest in Olympic protest farce gets his running orders

HE brought farce to the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens when he obstructed Brazilian leader Vanderlei de Lima with just a couple of miles to go.

Now former Irish priest Neil Horan has been handed a court order which bans him from the vicinity of the London Marathon until 2010.

The anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) also forbids him from attending the start of the Tour de France in London in July.

Under the threat of five years in prison if he breaches the order, the 60-year-old former priest told the court in south-east London that he would be "very happy" to comply.

But Mr Horan, who disrupted the British Grand Prix in 2003 and the Olympic marathon a year later, claimed the result as a victory because an application to have him get written permission from sporting-event organisers before getting admitted was rejected.

Southwark Council had also sought a ban on Mr Horan carrying "any placard in a public place that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress". It too was rejected.

Mr Horan, who carried out various stunts to "proclaim the message of the Bible" said yesterday he had expected the outcome. "I don't really mind. It's a very limited restriction having an Asbo for one day a year at an event that I possibly wouldn't bother to go to see again as it's of very limited enjoyment value.

"I'm very happy regarding the outcome in general. I was very happy that there was no restriction put on my religious mission.

"The female judge said she wouldn't even entertain the idea of passing the law on the placards. I think it leaves me to complete my mission completely unhindered, it says that they have no power to stop the spreading of a Christian message.

"I'm free to go on proclaiming my message."

He said it was always likely that the Asbos banning him from the vicinity of the London marathon and the London stages of this year's Tour de France would be pushed through.

"I can assure you that my days of attracting attention at sporting events are over," he said. "I wrote a letter to Vanderlei de Lima in 2004 promising him I would never break the law again, and the whole question of my credibility would be gone if I did."

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