Taoiseach Enda Kenny took refuge inside a hotel for over three hours as he came under further fire last night from water charges demonstrators.
In battle mode, the Fine Gael leader met fellow party members at a private meeting in the Greenhills Hotel, Limerick, from where he issued a pre-election rallying call.
It is the latest in a number of private party meetings being held around the country in which insiders confirmed last night, is the start of Mr Kenny's first foot forward on the campaign trail ahead of the next general election.
"Yes, you could say it's a pre-phase. It's no secret this is the start of his election campaign. He's going around to party members around the country and geeing them up ahead of the next election," said a well-informed source close to the Taoiseach.
Mr Kenny arrived at the hotel ahead of schedule, and more importantly, ahead of anti-water charges protestors, who missed their chance to show him just how angry they are at the proposed water charges.
However as he sipped tea and addressed colleagues a crowd of protestors grew from around 30 to almost 200 in a matter of minutes.
"Kenny, Kenny, Out, Out, Out," and "Not a penny, Enda Kenny" was shouted loudest from the large protest gathering in the hotel car park.
There was a heavy security presence as Gardaí surrounded the hotel. It's estimated there were at least 100 Gardai in attendance. A Garda checkpoint was set up as cars turned into the hotel's driveway. Armed Garda units looked on from vantage points and armed detectives also patrolled the hotel perimeter.
Tipperary North TD, Noel Coonan and a colleague were surrounded in their car by protestors as they left the hotel.
Ex mayor Michael Hourigan also ran the gauntlet as did Limerick TD Kieran O'Donnell, who had to shield former councillor Mary Jackman from an angry group of protestors. Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan and councillor Denis McCarthy were also booed by the crowd.
The crowd jeered and heckled anyone and everyone who looked like they had attended the Fine Gael meeting calling them "scum" and "traitors".
Deputy Noel Coonan admitted on Friday last that he went "possibly overboard" when he compared water charges demonstrators in Dublin to Islamic state terror group ISIS.
Van loads of Garda officers attached to uniform, public order, and community policing units, surrounded the hotel for the duration of the Taoiseach's stay.
Plain clothes officers with earpieces were also keeping a watching brief.
Guests arriving at the hotel looked shocked by the numbers of gardaí who have surrounded the hotel.
Security barriers were also erected near the front entrance of the hotel as an added security measure, to separate the protestors from the Taoiseach. However, Mr Kenny managed to avoid the demonstrators by leaving through a rear entrance at the hotel. Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan also escaped for the second time in as many weeks by taking the same route as the party leader.
"I have children to feed and I'm on the dole. How on earth am I going to fork out for these water charges. I just can't pay it. I won't pay it. I'll go to jail if I have to," remarked one female protestor.
As the meeting wrapped up and the protestors left, one Fine Gael attendee turned to another as they both left the hotel, and asked, "Where are all the protestors gone?," to which his companion replied, "Who cares, f**k em."