A FINE Gael minister has described some anti-abortion protesters as "literally mad" and says some are engaging in "real intimidation", particularly in rural Ireland.
Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes, a TD for Dublin South-West, also says some people see the abortion debate as a "kind of last cultural war".
He said they were trying to make a stand against the direction the country was taking.
Mr Hayes' comments in an interview in 'Hot Press' magazine follow numerous TDs saying they have been subject to intimidation from pro-life groups.
Meath East TD Regina Doherty last week revealed pro-life activists had threatened to slit her throat and burn down her house.
Mr Hayes said the vast majority of people are respectful, but added: "There is a real intimidation going on the ground, particularly in rural Ireland – mad people.
"And I'm not referring to the genuine pro-life position, which is respectful of others and argues the case. But there are elements to this debate which are literally mad, and they see this as some kind of last cultural war.
"It's nothing to do with abortion. They see this as some kind of way in which the country has gone and they will take one final stand against this.
"All of the nonsense that they go on with, appalling attacks on my colleagues from elements of the pro-life gangs, as I call them – we won't be put off by that kind of intimidation."
He also said there is a man who stands outside his local church and shouts "minister for abortion" at him.
"Thankfully the great majority moderate position doesn't associate with either of the extremes," Mr Hayes said.
Mr Hayes' comments came as a Fine Gael TD received complaints from her neighbours after a gruesome anti-abortion leaflet was distributed in her name. The leaflet featured graphic pictures of dead foetuses, alongside the name, picture and phone number of Fine Gael Dublin South Central TD Catherine Byrne.
Ms Byrne said she had got complaints from neighbours and constituents who thought she had sent the leaflet containing the slogan "This is what Fine Gael wants to legalise".
"Their children have picked it up in the hall and it's very offensive literature. We're dealing with something we haven't dealt with before," she said.
Ms Byrne has spoken during the recent Oireachtas Committee hearings into the abortion legislation about how she has had five healthy children as well as five miscarriages. She said that the inclusion of the graphic pictures of dead babies on the leaflets was extremely upsetting for people.
"I know what a baby who has miscarried looks like. I held mine in my hand. I don't need to be reminded of it. There have been many women in the country who have gone through miscarriages," she said.