Taoiseach Enda Kenny and opposition leader Micheál Martin faced a barrage of criticism while out canvassing in Waterford and Dublin respectively, as they attempted to start the final week before Friday’s election on the front foot.
Visiting the Eishtec business facility on the outskirts of Waterford City, Mr Kenny was challenged by a small number of protesters who accused him of selling out the country.
To shouts of “no way, we won’t pay” and “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, out, out, out”, the Taoiseach was helped through the crowds by gardaí, resulting in an elderly woman being accidentally knocked to the ground.
However, even while he was safely inside announcing further Fine Gael plans to increase jobs in the south east region if the party is re-elected to power, protesters continued to heckle the head of government, chanting: “Enda Kenny’s in his ivory tower, this is called people power.”
In the Dublin suburb of Crumlin just hours earlier, Mr Martin, faced a similar reaction from the Dublin Says No group, forcing him at one point to abandon his car.
While out on a local canvass with Dublin South Central candidate Catherine Ardagh in Crumlin Village, Mr Martin’s car was blocked off by six protesters holding a large flag hitting out at austerity measures imposed over the past decade.
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After a minute’s stand-off in which protesters shouted “Labour, blueshirts, Fianna Fáil, jail, jail, jail them all” and one stuck his middle finger up while standing next to the car door, the Fianna Fáil leader left the vehicle and walked quickly to a nearby newsagents.
Backed up by 10 canvassers but without gardaí, Mr Martin remonstrated with the protesters while getting back into the vehicle a short distance away, with a further small stand-off ending when his driver slowly drove forward.
Speaking to reporters at the Assumption junior national school in nearby Walkinstown a short time later, Mr Martin said that while people are fully entitled to protest, what happened was “undemocratic” as, “in a democracy, people should have freedom of movement, freedom of political action, regardless of who you are”.
It's all to play for as Election 2016 campaigns enter their final days https://t.co/qJKrzBNKHd (DOD) #GE16 pic.twitter.com/7lsAXaI5Wh— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) February 22, 2016
He said he and his party colleague — who continued to canvass the area for a short period afterwards — were “conducting normal political behaviour” and that the incident was an attempt to “just disrupt the canvass”.
“I don’t mind people protesting and they’re fully entitled to protest, but it seems to me the purpose of this morning was to prevent us from canvassing and listening,” he said.
The incidents are among a small number of protests targeting senior politicians during the general election, and follow on from Mr Kenny being targeted by anti-austerity protesters in Cork at the start of the campaign.