A FINE Gael deputy has claimed he was "physically assaulted," by a woman as he left the stage at a rally in support of retaining services for the elderly at a local hospital.
Peter Fitzpatrick was one of three government deputies who were not allowed address a crowd of 700 who took part in a march on Saturday afternoon in support of retaining long-term care for the elderly at the Cottage Hospital in Drogheda.
The alleged assault took place as they were leaving the stage after being prevented from using the microphone.
The crowd was told by a member of the Save Drogheda Cottage Hospital committee that it had been agreed that any TD who did not sign a pledge would not be allowed the microphone.
Fine Gael deputies Mr Fitzpatrick and Fergus O'Dowd and Labour's Gerald Nash didn't sign because they said it could result in them having to vote against the Government. The pledge asked them to vote against any measures aimed at closing the hospital and to vote in favour of any measure or Dail motion to retain services.
Both of the opposition TDs in Louth -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail's Seamus Kirk -- signed it and addressed the crowd.
Last night Mr Fitzpatrick said: "As I was going down from the stage I was physically assaulted by this lady. She struck me on the face.
"I can understand people's emotions being high but there was no excuse for what she did. It was completely out of order.''
He did not rule out making a complaint to gardai.
Junior Communications Minister Mr O'Dowd said: "What happened today in my own town is where a bunch of fascist thugs prevented us from speaking."
The minister compared what happened to "a Nuremburg rally where you are dictated to by a small number of people. I was abused going up (to the stage) by a man who threatened he'd drag me off it".
Last night Mr O'Dowd said his comments were "only directed at those who were controlling the stage and at those who threatened me".
Committee secretary, Sinn Fein Cllr Imelda Munster called on him to withdraw his comments. She said the TDs were informed of the wording of the pledge two days before the rally.
The future of 33 long-term beds and 19 respite beds between the Cottage hospital in Drogheda and St Josephs in Ardee, is under examination