Rising tide of protests against Irish Water

Anti-Irish Water momentum reached new heights yesterday as protesters forced it to abandon a meeting with public representatives and later demonstrated in a town where three householders were arrested for blocking meters installations.

It has also emerged that confusion for families over what they will pay for water will remain for a number of weeks, with the Government undecided on how to alleviate charges for people.

Around 25 protesters forced the abandonment of a meeting in a Cork hotel yesterday at which Irish Water was to answer questions about its operations from Cork and Kerry councillors.

The meeting was a few minutes old when they burst past security and confronted four senior Irish Water officials, demanding that they answer their questions.

After a lengthy stand-off, an Irish Water official decided to abandon the meeting.

Paul O’Donoghue, head of its customer relations, said he would seek to reschedule the meeting. He said seven other regional meetings with councillors had passed off without interruption.

Protester Gerard Kavanagh, a former Cork County Council employee, said he had had enough because he had seen his children struggling to get jobs and pay bills and people could not take any more.

He said protests would escalate “until Irish Water collapsed” and predicted that if the Government did not reverse its position on charges “it would fall”.

Meanwhile, a defiant mother of three who was among three arrested in Cobh yesterday for blocking meter installation has vowed to continue protesting.

Karen Doyle, 43, said she is as determined as ever to peacefully resist the installation of meters despite facing possible prosecution.

“I am as determined today as I was yesterday or last year,” she said.

“We are organising at local level. This is a grassroots movement and tens of thousands of people are now speaking out.

“We have seen this over the last few weeks and we will see it this weekend with protests across the country.”

Protesters predict that up to 80 marches nationwide with tens of thousands of people will take place on Saturday.

A high-level Economic Management Council (EMC) meeting of ministers yesterday failed to agree on options to ease charges and the public anger over Irish Water.

No specific agreement was made at the EMC, where the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and four ministers met to discuss the crisis surrounding Irish Water and the new charge. Options such as extending assessed charges for people beyond next summer and extra allowances for families were teased out but a decision could be two to three weeks away, government sources confirmed.

The structure of the next board of Irish Water was also discussed. Advertisements for posts will be published in the next fortnight.

Coalition sources say a reason for the delay in agreeing measures is the need to avoid any knock-on effects changes may have on state aid rules for Irish Water.

Ministers moved to blame the troika for the rushed set-up of the company. Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin also said there was a view that bonuses should not be paid to staff.

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