Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s car was attacked and blocked during tense scenes in Sligo this evening.
A small group of anti-water charges protesters surrounded Mr Kenny’s car, kicking and banging it with placards, while one man who climbed on the bonnet had to be pulled away by gardaí.
Mr Kenny later criticised those involved in the melee saying it was lucky no-one was injured.
“From what I could see they had no regard for women and children,” he said.
Mr Kenny said that while people had a right to voice their opinions in a democracy, questions had to be asked given that assurances had been given that the road would not be blocked.
Gardaí confirmed there were no arrests following the incident.
One young woman collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Sligo Regional Hospital.
A crowd of about 400 people had been participating in a peaceful protest at the entrance to the Sligo Park Hotel where Mr Kenny was due to address a Fine Gael regional meeting attended by local TDs , senators and party members .
But scuffles erupted around the car in which the Taoiseach was a passenger. Gardaí and protesters clashed while shocked onlookers who had been chanting slogans for an hour before Mr Kenny’s arrival got caught up in the melee.The crowd included several small children.
Leaders of the Right2Water protest had repeatedly urged the crowd to ensure the event was peaceful . Participants in the protest who started to assemble almost two hours before the Taoiseach was due included a number of local councillors. The Mayor of Sligo Tom MacSharry (FF) , and Fianna Fáil senator Marc MacSharry were present .
The event had initially been been good humoured with many of those participating saying they were horrified by events in Jobstown at the weekend.
As scuffles broke out , organisers repeatedly shouted “peaceful protest” on the loud hailers.
Several of those present pointed out that this was their first protest with many saying the charge was “the last straw”.
Local woman Ursula McCaffrey said she had lost her job and was now on the dole. She did not believe the charge would remain as low as the government was promising.
“It will be like the property tax - it will go up and up”, she said.
Ms McCaffrey said she was horrified by the treatment of the Tánaiste on Saturday. “I am totally opposed to violence - they went too far”.
James Derwin, whose 25-year-old daughter collapsed after the incident, said he had come along with his children and grandchildren because “it is about their future”.