TANAISTE Joan Burton was trapped in her car for more than three hours by demonstrators yesterday in a sinister escalation of anti-water charge opposition.
Protesters blockaded her vehicle as she attended a function in South Dublin.
The Tanaiste, who is said to have remained calm throughout the ordeal, was transferred to three different cars by gardai before she managed to leave the area.
Gardai made two arrests at the protest, one for criminal damage and another for public order offences.
Later, the protest turned even uglier. There was at least one incident where gardai deployed pepper spray to try and quell the disturbance. The Garda helicopter was also deployed and reinforcements of gardai from surrounding stations rushed to the scene.
Around 100 protesters circled Minister Burton's car as the "peaceful protest" became heated as she attempted to leave a higher education graduation ceremony for students in Jobstown, Tallaght.
Despite a strong Garda presence trying to protect the Tanaiste's car, protesters still managed to bang loudly on the roof, bonnet and windscreen of the ministerial vehicle, shouting "shame on you" and "peaceful protest".
However scuffles broke out and eggs were thrown in the direction of the Minister's car and the gardai who threw a protective cordon around the Tanaiste.
During the protest Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy sat behind the Minister's car, stopping it from leaving the area. He later told the Sunday Independent that their actions were justified.
"We clearly got the message across to Joan Burton that anything less than abolition of water charges will not be accepted. I think having a peaceful sit-down protest for about half an hour before slow marching her car out was justified."
However, he said Garda "intervened in an unnecessarily heavy-handed way".
A spokesperson for Ms Burton said it was meant to be a day to celebrate the achievements of adult students at An Cosan College. "The protests should not be allowed to overshadow what was a very important and significant day for those graduates," she added.
Independent Senator Katherine Zappone, co-founder of An Cosan, witnessed the protest and later described some of the scenes as "menacing" "intimidating" and "unacceptable".
Photographs and video footage shown on social media showed a large group surrounding the car. The Tanaiste was switched to a garda car as she left the scene.