Fianna Fáil has called for a five-year minimum jail sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting or threatening the life of a frontline emergency worker on duty.

The party tabled the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill 2012 in the Dáil today.

The Bill proposes to set a minimum jail term on anyone convicted of assault on an on-duty garda, fireman, ambulance worker, nurse or prison officer.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said he was extremely disappointed that neither the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice were present at today's sitting of the Dáil.

He was informed that Minister for Defence Alan Shatter was ill today.

Sinn Féin's Dessie Ellis said he could not support the Bill as drafted.

He said that mandatory sentencing would not allow the courts to take a nuanced or subtle approach in individual cases.