Church of Ireland negotiators today pulled out of attempts to end the hunger strike by Afghan asylum seekers occupying a Dublin cathedral.
As the seven-day crisis deepened, a potential settlement which would have ended the protest was said to have been rejected by Irish authorities.
The Archbishop of Dublin, the Rev John Neill, revealed the protesters – who have threatened to kill themselves – were prepared to accept the initiative.
But Michael McDowell’s Department of Justice has now told clergymen to quit negotiations as Irish police take control, he said in a statement.
The Archbishop said: “Following a night of intense discussions during which senior church personnel attempted to broker a resolution between the Afghan asylum seekers and the authorities, we regret to say that these talks have reached an impasse again.
“We had arrived at a set of proposals which were acceptable to the asylum seekers and which we felt offered a fair and equitable way forward for all parties.
“Unfortunately this view was not shared by the Department of Justice.”
Forty one Afghans, including men and youths, have refused food since setting up camp in the cathedral last Sunday.
They are demanding political asylum and claim they will be tortured or killed if forced to return to their native country.
With gardaí on stand-by to enter the building, ten of the group threatened at one stage to jump from a 20-metre-high organ loft.
Mr McDowell, has insisted the men must go through the refugee system.
According to Archbishop Neill, however, his department also rejected a church offer for one of its officials to be brought in as an independent observer at further interviews.
“We fully accept the department’s position on due process, but a mechanism must be found to enable the return of the asylum seekers to this process,” the Archbishop added.
“We have now been instructed by the Department of Justice to withdraw from all negotiations as it has placed this matter solely in the control of An Garda Siochana, whose responsibility it is now to deal with this matter.
“Notwithstanding the failure of these talks we renew our appeal to the asylum seekers to respect this holy place, to desist from their protest and to leave quietly and with dignity.”