CRUEL hoaxers used an online news network to wrongly claim that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had died.
The shocking report sparked a flurry of internet activity last night after it was falsely posted using the name of an RTE journalist.
The father-of-two (51) has been battling pancreatic cancer since shortly before Christmas but expects to complete his treatment next month.
Gardai may now investigate the source of the reports that were uploaded on the Irish and UK version of the well-known Indymedia site.
The detailed story alleged that paramedics had been called to the Lenihan home in Castleknock yesterday evening but failed to revive the Minister .
One Fianna Fail TD told the Herald: "I got a call from a friend who was very concerned. It's a ridiculous and heartless thing for somebody to do and should be fully investigated."
Just last weekend Mr Lenihan moved to quell rumours about his health saying he was in "fine fettle".
However, scores of internet users are thought to have been fooled by the hoax that led to a rush of activity on Twitter and other discussion forums.
The story was given extra weight because it was written using the byline of RTE News reporter Bethan Kilfoil.
Ms Kilfoil is married to the Green Party's deputy government press secretary John Downing who would be among the first to know if something happened to a Cabinet member.
A station spokesperson told the Herald today: "RTE became aware of the situation yesterday evening because of an erroneous post reportedly from a member of the RTE newsroom staff. Obviously this is not something that an RTE journalist would do and it has been clarified by Indymedia."
Ms Kilfoil's name had been spelt incorrectly and an RTE email address posted at the bottom of the piece had the wrong format.
The story claimed that "reputable sources" had confirmed that Mr Lenihan had passed away.
"Paramedics were called to the family home at around 6pm and despite frantic attempts to revive him were unable to do so," it said.
The Independent Media Centre Network (Indymedia) said last night that it has removed two stories that were posted as a result of "trolling".
In a statement, the site said the story "would appear to be the product of a sick imagination".
Speaking on Sunday about rumours that doctors had advised him to step down from office, Minister Lenihan said: "I can only describe this as holiday weekend madness. Far from what the rumours -- wherever they started -- seem to be saying, my treatment is going very satisfactorily and I'm in very sound shape."
His spokesperson did not want to comment on the hoax.