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Water metering & 'political policing'       printable version
13 Jun 2014 filed by editor - General

A Dublin councillor who attended a water metering protest says the actions of the gardai were like 'political policing'.

On the morning of Thursday 12 June Councillor John Lyons was called to the scene of an anti-water meter protest in Raheny, Dublin 5 and was shocked by what he witnessed: "I've been supporting the residents on Tonlegee Drive who have been peacefully resisting the installation of Irish Water meters for over two weeks now and was perturbed and dismayed by the large An Garda Shiocana presence on the road that morning and to hear reports that one member of the public had been hospitalised due to the actions of one Irish Water contractor. It soon appeared to many of us present that the gardai were there to break the residents' peaceful resistance as six officers stood inside a barrier outside one home as behind them four Irish Water contractors installed a water meter. To any reasonable person it looked a clear case of political policing."

As an elected representative for the Beaumont/Doanghmede area, Cllr. Lyons attempted to engage with the gardai present but they were uncommunicative; as a result, the residents were left unsure as to the role of the police present on their street: "I contacted Coolock Garda Station having failed to get any information from the officers on the ground and insisted on speaking to the most senior officer. Within forty minutes, Garda Inspector Pat Leahy was on site and communicating with myself and the residents."

Inspector Leahy let it be known that the role of his officers was to facilitate the Irish Water contractors in reconnecting the water supply to three houses that had had their supply cut by the contractors two days earlier. Luckily, those residents had their water reconnected by two kind local plumbers: the garda officers were there to ensure the reconnection work was carried out officially by Irish Water, as they bear ultimate responsibility for peoples' water supply.

Cllr Lyons stated: "Having listened carefully to the Inspector I then asked if he was aware that the contractors had actually installed water meters as well as reconnecting the water supply. Inspector Leahy said he was not and would be most unhappy it that were in fact the case. He asked the Irish Water foreman to open one of the cases and inside there was indeed a water meter, installed against the wishes of the residents and with the unwitting assistance of the police force."

Having lodged a formal complaint to the Health & Safety Authority in relation to the injured protester, Cllr. Lyons said he asked the Garda Inspector what his intentions were in relation to Irish Water, to which the Inspector responded by saying that he will write a report which will be submitted to his superior, Chief Superintendent Frank Clerkin, who will then lodge a formal complaint with Irish Water.

"A very stressful day for the residents of Tonlegee Drive was brought to an end when a Health & Safety officer, having taken many statements from those on the scene of the accident that had occurred earlier in the day, ordered that no further work be attempted by the Irish Water contractors that day.

"Whether Irish Water will finally get the message and give up trying to forcibly install their water meters against the wishes of the people or whether they will return once again is unknown at present. The one thing that is known is that resistance to the water charges is spreading throughout the city of Dublin and across the country," said Cllr Lyons.

A national demonstration is due to take place in Dublin on September 20th, called by the Right2Water campaign. 

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