9 August 2001 Edition

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Dubliner on hunger strike

The wife of a Dublin man who has been on hunger strike for almost four weeks is calling on the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to intervene to save her husband's life.

60-year-old former taxi driver, Don Flanagan, suffered a stroke last year, hours after the deregulation of the taxi service in Dublin. Deregulation had meant that taxi plates, which had been worth up to £80,000, were now being sold for a fraction of that sum. While Flanagan had hoped his taxi plate would provide a pension, he has now been left with huge medical bills and a virtually worthless taxi business. He also suffers from asthma and diabetes.

When Flanagan was twice refused a medical card or disability allowance by the state - because his wife was still working - he decided that a hunger strike was the only course of action he could take.

On the 25th day of his appeal (Thursday 9 August), Don's wife Anne has told An Phoblacht that she and her son are ``totally distressed'' at his deteriorating condition.

``He is very weak and despite media coverage and appeals to the government we have received no response whatsoever from the Taoiseach,'' Anne said. ``Don just feels let down, he feels nobody cares about him.''

Sinn Féin councillor Christy Burke visited Flanagan this week and has written, ``on humanitarian grounds'' to 26-County Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Dermot Ahern on his behalf. ``Don is determined to carry this strike through,'' Burke said. ``The ruthless way in which the state has refused to recognise his obvious medical needs is outrageous. If this matter is not resolved immediately, he will be in very serious danger of losing his life.''

Burke added that he will be asking 26-county President Mary McAleese to intervene directly if there is no immediate response from the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1