Anti-water charge protesters "descended on the Tánaiste’s car like hounds after a fox", Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted in fierce Dáil exchanges.
He demanded an apology from Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy over the treatment of Joan Burton at the weekend.
The Taoiseach said Mr Murphy, who was at Saturday’s demonstration, would not like being “hemmed in by a baying mob for two-and-a-half hours” as Ms Burton was.
Turning his fire on Independent TD Mick Wallace, he said: “I would have thought the deputy, as a man of the people, would disassociate himself completely from what happened at the weekend — homophobic remarks, taunting, vicious language, and kicks and the belts given to completely innocent people.”
Mr Wallace insisted the Government had lost the people’s trust. He called for Mr Kenny to scrap Irish Water as he accused the Taoiseach of using Saturday’s protest for his own political ends.
Mr Wallace said anti-water charging protests had been “overwhelmingly peaceful” as he condemned the verbal abuse directed at the Tánaiste at the weekend and the fact objects were thrown at Ms Burton.
The Taoiseach said he accepted that the “majority” of people who took part in anti-charging marches were peaceful, as he insisted the bills for Irish Water would not be as big as people had thought.
“The return in income tax starting in people’s cheques in January will far outweigh in a year the cost or the contribution to be made for Irish Water.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams demanded that the Government back his party’s plans to enshrine public ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution. When Mr Kenny rejected the idea, Mr Adams asked why Labour had supported embedding the right to water in the constitution in the Seanad.
He accused the Taoiseach of being forced into U-turns on water prices due to the public anger against the introduction of charging.
Mr Kenny hit back at Mr Adams, saying he had also changed his stance: “You yourself were advocating the payment of water charges and you then changed your mind when you heard the sound of marching feet.”
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