Politicians have strongly condemned the verbal abuse President Michael D Higgins was subjected to last week by water charge protesters.

The protesters used insults, including the words "traitor" and "parasite", as the President left a school in Finglas last Friday.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy said that he condemns the behaviour of those who verbally abused the President.

However, Mr Murphy also told RTÉ News that President Higgins was a legitimate target for protest, and was not beyond politics.

Minister for Health Leo Vardakar said it amounted to an attack on the Constitution.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny condemned the protest, describing it as disgraceful.

Speaking on Newstalk, Mr Kenny said the President was carrying out his duties and while people have a right to protest, the President is above party politics. 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald also condemned the behaviour of the protesters.

Video footage has emerged of the incident outside Coláiste Eoin in Finglas.

Protests against President Higgins in Finglas (Contains bad language)

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Murphy said the President is elected in an election that is dominated by politics.

"While I don't agree tactically with the protest, and so I don't think there was really a purpose in this protest; it's not part of my strategic vision of how we will beat the water charges, I defend their right to protest, nonetheless.

"And I don't accept the kind of legal formalism that says the President is above politics.

"I think it's fair enough for people to protest against him in a peaceful manner, yes," he added.

He urged people to protest in a peaceful and in a non-abusive way.

Mr Murphy said he is not defending people name-calling, adding that personal abuse is utterly unhelpful for the anti-water charges movement and that anger needs to be allied with strategies that can win.

Minister Varadkar said that the targeting of President Higgins amounts to an attack on the Constitution.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said: "I suppose it strikes me that as the water protesters get fewer, they're getting nastier and what we have here is something that I've never seen before.

"Under our Constitution the President is above day-to-day politics.

"If a Bill is constitutional, he has to sign it. It's not his choice as to whether he signs it or not.

"To see him targeted in this way, I think, is an attack on our Constitution and even the kind of language used against him really is beneath common decency."

A Labour Senator said the actions of the water charge protesters were "akin to contravening sections of the Incitement to Hatred Act".

Senator Lorraine Higgins said she believes a crime was committed.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Senator Higgins said: "To use words in the way they were used against the President is certainly trying to stoke up discontent and is certainly trying to incite hatred against him".

She said she was "absolutely appalled" and condemned the language used and the way the President was treated.

She said that never before has the President of Ireland been subjected to this kind of abuse in the history of the State.

Senator Higgins said it was not just an attack on him as the first citizen of this country, but it was also an attack on democracy and called on gardaí to take action over the incident.

Labour TD for Dublin North West John Lyons said the actions of the protesters were "completely out of kilter with the very positive event being held in the school".

Mr Lyons, who was at the event, said he believed the protesters do not have the support of the vast majority of people in Finglas.

"On a day when there was an opportunity to celebrate the positives in the community, it is disappointing that a very small number of protesters have taken away from that," he said.