Stand-off as Cork residents vow to continue Irish Water protests

At Ashbrook Heights members of the Ballyphehane, South Parish and Togher anti-water and property tax group. L to R:John O'Donovan, Tony Cronin, Brian Gould and Donal O'Sullivan. Pic: Dan Linehan

Residents of a Cork housing estate have vowed to continue their blockade against the installation of water meters after a stand-off with Irish Water contractors yesterday.

Gardaí were called to the Ashbrook Heights estate in Lehanaghmore, Togher, when protesters prevented metering work.

About six members of the Ballyphehane and South Parish Anti Water and Property Tax group — who have disrupted several city council meetings in recent months — mounted the protest just after 9.30am when some residents alerted them that meter installation was under way. Some residents parked their cars over the stop-cock valves outside their property.

Gardaí arrived before noon and warned protesters they faced arrest if they didn’t allow the contractors to work. The installation resumed but was disrupted again a short time later.

Gardaí had to return to the estate on at least two further occasions to diffuse the situation.

Robbie Cronin was among several residents who parked their cars over their water mains valve. “I’m leaving it there now,” he said.

“What’s getting to me is that no one knows anything about the health risk posed by these smart meters.

“There is electromagnetic radiation coming from the meters. There is no contract given to me with negotiated set prices, information around water usage or anything like that.

“If people knew what was happening, you might say something. But this company, Irish Water, has a monopoly on the water, and we can’t look anywhere else for a better price.”

Protest spokesman John Lonergan insisted that householders have a legal right to refuse to accept the installation of water meters. “For consumers to accept this meter, there has to be a contract in place, or an agreement between two people,” he said.

“It is our view that there is no contract between the parties because most consumers don’t want a water meter. Our message to consumers is that they have a right to refuse the installation of these meters. People are phoning us every day telling us they are totally against this.

“We will continue to support communities who are against the water metering programme. There will be more protests like this across Cork.”

Irish Water said the protest in Togher halted metering work for a short time but that work resumed later.

“Irish Water recognises the right to protest and endeavours to facilitate this right insofar as is reasonably possible while maintaining the safety of the staff, the public, and the site of work,” a spokesperson said.

“The Irish Water metering programme is a national programme, set out in the Programme for Government.

“To date, Irish Water has installed over 193,000 water meters nationally.”

Despite the protests, Irish Water contractors are installing around 27,000 meters a month.

The first readings are due to take place in October, with the first bills expected to be issued in January.

The installation of just over 1m water meters nationwide is due to be completed in 2016. The installation programme is one of the largest schemes of its kind in the world.

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