Call for wave of water meter protests

Protester Brian Gould  resists Irish Water contractors in Togher, Cork

Anti-water tax campaigners have warned the Government it faces a wave of nationwide blockades after water meter protests spread yesterday.

As residents in Cork prevented Irish Water contractors from installing water meters for the second day in a row, a similar blockade was mounted in Dublin.

About 20 members of the ‘Dublin Says No’ anti-austerity campaign blocked the entrance to Watermill Drive in Raheny and forced Irish Water contractors to withdraw.

“If residents are prepared to make a stand, we will stand with them,” said Bernie Hughes, a spokeswoman for Dublin Says No and a United Left candidate in Finglas-Cabra.

She said similar anti-austerity groups around the country are discussing similar action.

“We send solidarity greetings to the people in Cork and thank them for highlighting this issue,” she said.

“People are coming together now on this issue. The people here today are quite prepared to stay here for as long as it takes.”

The Department of the Environment said anybody disrupting meter installations could face fines of up to €5,000 or jail for three months, under legislation transferring local authority powers to Irish Water.

Irish Water confirmed it had been forced to stop work at the Cork site.

The Dublin protest followed a rallying call from the residents of an estate in Togher, Cork, for other communities to stand up and fight the water meter installation programme.

“If anybody else around the country feels the same way about this, stand with us,” said Ashbrook Heights resident Peter McMahon.

He was speaking as members of the Ballyphehane and South Parish Anti Water and Property Tax campaign defied Garda warnings about possible arrest for obstruction and maintained their blockade of the 65-house estate in Lehenaghmore.

Several residents parked their cars over their stop-cock valves and vowed to prevent the work from going ahead.

Brian Gould, a member of the campaign, stood in front of a rock-breaker in nearby Fernwood Estate to prevent the contractors from working.

“I physically stood in front of the machine and prevented the work from going ahead,” he said.

“Whether they will prosecute me or not, I don’t know.

“But we are going to stay here protesting. We will stop them again. We will do everything to frustrate these people from putting in these meters.

“Hopefully the people in other estates will come out and back us and stop these people doing something that we do not want.”

Irish Water said the contractors on site in Togher temporarily delayed the metering work “to maintain the safety of the staff, the public, and the site of work”.

The company said: “Metering work is continuing to proceed as planned in neighbouring areas.”

Environment Minister Phil Hogan continued to blame the troika “for rushing in” planned new water charges.

As campaigners pledged to ramp up action and punish the Government parties, especially in the local and European elections, Mr Hogan insisted the troika had demanded “a water reform programme implemented by the end of 2013”.

Admitting that between 10% and 15% of some 1.1m homes would still not be metered by 2016, Mr Hogan also claimed the fairest way to implement the charge was through a meter.

“We’re trying to do this in the fairest possible manner. The Government will be making final decisions in relation to the water tariff and the structure of that in the next 10 days. So I would ask people to co-operate with the most user-friendly way in so far as you can.”

Irish Water managed to install five water meters in Ashbrook Heights on Wednesday before the protest took hold.

The company says it is installing about 27,000 water meters every month, with an estimated 200,000 installed to date.

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