In an escalation of the Irish Ferries dispute, port workers at Dublin and Rosslare have announced they will turn away the MV Normandy which is due to arrive from France tomorrow.

The ship will leave Cherbourg for Rosslare this evening.

Meanwhile, Irish Ferries has denied a newspaper report that it considered the use of tear gas when another vessel was taken over by ship's officers last December.

However, the reporter who wrote the story, Gerald Flynn, has said his personal notes bear out the article that appeared in today's Irish Independent.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Minister John O'Donoghue said that if the reports were accurate, the government would examine what criminal charges could be brought against the company's management.

In a separate statement, Irish Ferries denied that their security personnel were carrying any kind of weaponry, saying they were only there to protect equipment.

Trade union reps denied access to crew members

In Holyhead, trade union representatives said they have been denied access to crewmembers of the Irish Ferries vessel, Ulysses, in the worsening dispute at the company.

The International Transport Workers' Federation claims a member of the British seafarers' union, NUMAST, was refused permission to board the ship.

The Federation has also claimed the crew on the Ulysses are not free to leave the ship.

Irish Ferries services across the Irish Sea are suspended, and are not expected to resume until Monday at the earliest.

The Ulysses is one of two vessels stranded in Welsh ports, as Irish crewmembers demand the removal of security personnel and foreign agency workers.

This is the third day of the standoff.