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Timeline: how tense drama at St Patrick's unfolded

Sunday, May 14 * Noon: A group of 33 Afghan men sit in a side aisle of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

* 3.15pm: After Evensong service, they announce that they are going on a hunger and thirst strike to protest at the Government's refusal to grant them asylum. They say they intend to remain in the cathedral until their demands are met.

Monday, May 15 Eight more asylum seekers join the Afghans' hunger strike. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, and the Imam of the Dublin mosque meet with the protesters in an effort to break the deadlock.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell says he will not negotiate with them because his department does not deal with asylum seekers en bloc.

Tuesday, May 16

* Morning: Six of the 41 protesters, including two teenagers, are taken to St James's Hospital by ambulance. There is emotion outside the church gates where the classmates of Omid Ahmadi (17) from Dundrum College are protesting.

Four men try to join the protest, but the group inside say they cannot cope with bigger numbers.

* Afternoon: Accompanied by two Church of Ireland clerics, the Afghans enter into behind-the-scenes negotiations with Department of Justice officials at the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Most of the protesters, who include seven teenagers, have begun to take water.

* Late afternoon: Taoiseach Bertie Ahern takes a hardline attitude with the hunger strikers in the Dail. He warns that the Government will not give in to their threats. "We would rather die in a church than go back to Afghanistan," says the Afghans' spokesperson, Osman Hotak.

Wednesday, May 17 All the hunger strikers who were taken to hospital have returned to the church. A team of volunteer GPs check the men's health.

A protester - not a member of the Afghan group - is marched from the cathedral by three gardai. He is wearing a Palestinian PLO scarf.

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Justice Minister Michael McDowell tells the Dail that he had often been faced with people who had sewn their mouths shut in protest at deportations. He says the authorities could not bow to such pressure.

Irish representatives of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees try to negotiate a deal to end the strike.

Eight of the hunger strikers, including seven under the age of 18, are still not taking liquids.

Thursday, May 18 Camera crews are allowed into the cathedral for the first time. The Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral Robert McCarthy is among church leaders calling for the Afghan hunger strikers to end their protest.

All of the protesters are now taking water.

Friday, May 19

* 7am to just after 9am: Over 60 garda officers surround the cathedral and 15 gardai enter the building. Seven garda vans wait alongside the cordon.

Church authorities confirm that some of the men have tried to self-harm. Some of them are in possession of ropes and razors.

* 11.25am: Two ambulances arrive at the cathedral.

* Noon: A young man is taken from the cathedral by ambulance. Industrial relations mediator Phil Flynn arrives at the scene and describes the garda presence as 'provocative'.

* 2pm: Church of Ireland authorities formally ask the protesters to leave the building.

The High Court grants the Health Service Executive an application to make seven of the under-age hunger strikers wards of court.

Later, High Court President Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan refuses a request to take the minors into custody.

Hunger strike spokesperson Osman Hotak says the men will not end their hunger strike. "We will not end our hunger strike today. We will not end it tomorrow, we will not end it ever without our demands being met," he said.

COMPILED BY

ANNE-MARIE WALSH


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