THERE were emotional scenes today as protesters gathered in Athlone in anticipation of a court appearance by a man at the centre of an alleged serious assault on two young girls.
The children aged six and nine are still being treated in hospital in Galway following the attack described by gardai as being 'an horrific and catastrophic attack.'
The man is not due in court until tomorrow morning but a group of around 300 people had gathered near the court as the man was questioned at Athlone Garda station.
Many in the crowd are mothers deeply concerned about the safety of their children.
One woman said she had 'burst out crying' when she heard of the attack which occurred where she herself lives.
"Nobody slept in Athlone last night," said neighbour Jacqueline Berry - a mother of nine who said she was 'horrified' by what had happened just yards from her own home.
"We're staying until we see him - you need to know who you're living beside," said Jacqueline's daughter, Nicole.
The children at the centre of the incident are understood not to be from Athlone. They had been guests at a birthday party and were playing outside when they were lured to an empty house where the attack took place.
Both girls were highly distressed by the ordeal but managed to escape when they climbed out a window and ran back to the house where the party was taking place.
The adults were horrified and a number of men went to the house to confront the alleged attacker.
A fight is understood to have broken out, only broken up as the gardai arrived and the alleged attacker was arrested for public order offences, along with two men who also lived in the house.
They were taken into custody and two men were subsequently released, while the third were arrested and held overnight.
By Nicola Anderson