FINE Gael politicians braced themselves for a barrage of abuse from angry demonstrators at their annual autumn gathering in Westport today.
The Herald can reveal that the party has held intense discussions with gardai in a bid to avoid last year's furious scenes which saw some deputies getting jeered and jostled.
A "significant" security operation was ready to be rolled out today when the party's 98 TDs and senators turned up at the annual event in Westport, Co Mayo.
Fine Gael sources revealed that members have been warned to be on their "best behaviour" with the party hierarchy extremely keen to avoid negative media attention.
And TDs and ministers have admitted that they are expecting a wave of demonstrations from anti-household and property charge groups.
"There isn't the same party-like atmosphere that we were feeling at the ard fheis in March," one cabinet source told the Herald.
"Last week's health cuts debacle has wakened a lot of people up to the fact that we have some seriously unpopular measures to present to the public."
A Fine Gael spokeswoman confirmed that a security operation involving gardai and private security staff will be rolled out.
At last year's event, some protesters chained themselves to the entrance of The Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway while a number of deputies, such as Dublin South's Olivia Mitchell, were left shaken.
The two day think-in is taking place this year at the Knockranny House Hotel in Wesport, Co Mayo -- the home constituency of four Fine Gael TDs including Taoiseach Enda Kenny.