The Labour Party conference turned ugly yesterday as violent clashes between anti-austerity protesters and gardai marred the event.
Over 1,000 protesters, using a mock coffin as a weapon, breached the garda cordon surrounding the conference on the campus of NUI Galway and protesters made it to the doors of the hall.
Shortly after 2.30pm, vicious scenes of fighting broke out and protesters attacked security men with flags. A thin blue line of 20 gardai was the only barrier between the protesters and conference delegates.
As a result of the violence, the conference centre was locked down by "panicked" security authorities and in the crossfire one RTE camera man was pepper-sprayed as the protesters, numbering 5,000, reached the conference hall.
Myriad groups had gathered to protest against government austerity policies.
Protesters spat at gardai and brandished 'sold into slavery' placards. Journalists covering the protest were also threatened by protesters, many of whom covered their faces in scarves.
One student who reached the windows of the conference centre was arrested by two gardai.
At one point, Labour Party staff had to be evacuated from one area for their own safety as the violent scenes escalated.
Politicians leading the demonstration, including the People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, claimed their peaceful demonstration had been "hijacked" by large numbers of demonstrators who were seen speaking into mobile phones in a foreign language.
Mr Boyd Barrett said he didn't see any violence but heard there had been some scuffles. "I believe there was some pushing and shoving but I can't comment on any violence as I didn't see it," he told the Sunday Independent.
Outside the conference hall, demonstrators brandished Socialist Worker placards reading: "Don't Register Don't Pay", "Axe the Home Tax" and "Thug Hogan".
The demonstrators represented an astonishing array of protest groups, included the last remnants of the Occupy Dame Street movement and Citizens versus Charges.
They also included Shell to Sea, pro-neutrality, anti-septic tank charge and anti-bin tax campaigners, lone parents and DEIS schools defenders.
Amid fog-horns, bag-pipes and bodhrans, demonstrators brandished flags reading: "Taxing the toilet to pay Merkel", "It's Merkel's way, not Gilmore's way" and "The new Robin Hood Fine Gael/Labour tax".
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has used his conference speech to signal growing levels of unease within Labour over the "extraordinary and deeply frustrating situation" in which no accountability is being imposed on individuals who have been seriously criticised by tribunals.