The front gates of the Leinster House were rammed with a cement mixer truck today as members returned after their lengthy summer recess.
The words “Toxic Bank Anglo” were written in red letters along the barrel of the truck, which hit the guarded gates of the Dáil at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin, at around 7.15am.
A 41-year-old man was arrested at the scene and is being detained at Pearse Street garda station.
No one was injured in the incident.
A garda spokesman said the suspect is being held under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. He can be held for 24 hours.
The registration plate on the cement mixer spelt out the word 'bankrupt'.
In April, a cement mixer truck, with similar wording on it, was abandoned outside a branch of the bank on Forster Street, Galway. The cabin was locked and the engine left running.
Onlookers said all the windows on the cement truck were covered in metal grids and had been smashed, with the doors of the cabin welded shut.
It appeared some electric cables were cut before the driver escaped through a hatch on the roof.
Carol Treacy, owner of Petit Cafe opposite the Dáil, described the scene after the early-morning incident.
“I was preparing for business as usual this morning, and at about two or three mins past seven I heard this big air brake sound – I thought it was the coffee machine,” she said.
“I went outside and saw a big, huge cement truck had just drove straight up to Leinster House gates and a female garda was calling for help.
“This guy just hopped out of the cab, locked it and just hopped on a ladder and got on top of the truck.”
Ms Treacy said there was a large garda presence at the Dáil within minutes.
“There were police everywhere, but it was all very calm,” she said.
“They were just trying to get him down. He wasn‘t shouting or being abusive or anything, he was just standing on top of the truck. The guards were telling him to get down.”
The windows of the cab were smashed as the garda tried to get the man down.
The only damage to Dail property appeared to be scuff marks to the paintwork on the right-hand gate.
Ms Treacy said the truck appeared to have stopped at the large gated entrance just short of the Dáil grounds.
“It was very, very close to the gate. I don’t know if he hit the gate, but it was very, very close,” she said.
Crowds of passers-by and commuters gathered at the scene shortly after the incident.
“Some people were very sympathetic towards him. He was just a lone protester and it was quite a dramatic way to protest,” Ms Treacy said.
A spokesman for the Dáil said the incident would not affect today’s proceedings.
He confirmed the pedestrian access at the front gates was not damaged, with alternative vehicle access provided at the rear of the building on Merrion Street.
A large recovery tow truck was later given a garda escort through the city centre to remove the vehicle before TDs arrived for the new session.
Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd revealed that at least one garda on duty at the gates of the Dáil had to jump out of the way of the truck.
“If it had been later in the morning, staff could have been killed, public could have been killed,” said the opposition politician, who was first at the scene.
“I think it’s a very serious incident and I think it’s an appalling vista to be doing your job as a garda or usher in Dáil Éireann and to be seriously injured.”
The incident was sparked by controversial plans by the Government to plough more than €20m into State-owned Anglo Irish Bank.
Its former chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, was declared bankrupt in July – owing the institution about €110m.
The ex-banker, who resigned from Anglo in December 2008 following a loans scandal, is also at the centre of a massive fraud and corporate mismanagement investigation by the Garda and watchdog Paul Appleby, the director of corporate enforcement.
Mr O’Dowd said politicians would not be nervous after today’s incident, which he believed was a one-off.
A spokesman for the Dáil confirmed the truck was towed from outside the Kildare Street gates of Leinster House at around 9.30am.
“Access arrangements are now back to normal and there will be no disruption to the proceedings or workings of the Houses Oireachtas today,” he added.
Meanwhile Congress, the umbrella trade union, is planning a protest at the Dáil later today to mark the return of Government TDs after the summer recess.