Water campaigners defend right to protest

Local residents and protesters block workers from installing water meters at Elmvale Park, Sarsfield Rd, Cork. Pic: Dan Linehan

The latest anti-water meter campaigners in Cork have defended their right to protest after angry exchanges with some of their neighbours yesterday.

About a dozen residents of another housing estate took to the streets at 10am to block the installation of meters. The move by some of the residents of Elmvale in Wilton brought to four the number of such protests in the area.

Similar protests are continuing in nearby Ashbrook Heights in Lehanaghmore — ground zero for the blockade movement — and in Fernwood and Palmbury.

The protests have triggered a number of similar protests across Dublin’s northside — with residents in parts of Raheny, Donaghmede, Edenmore, and Kilbarrack also blocking Irish Water metering installation. People Before Profit Alliance candidate for Beaumont/Donaghmede John Lyons described the protests as “magnificent”.

“The people of Dublin’s northside are saying very clearly to the politicians of Fine Gael and the Labour Party that they’ll be destroyed at the ballot box on May 23 and will be faced with mounting resistance after that if they continue with their plans,” said Mr Lyons.

However, the Elmvale protestors were criticised by other residents, who said they did not represent the views of the entire estate.

Two women, who have lived in the estate for 34 years, said the protestors do not speak for them.

“Nobody wants to pay for water but we accept that it’s going to happen,” said one of the woman. “These protestors do not speak for the majority of us here. And we don’t support the stance they have taken.”

Her neighbour said she did not want to pay for water either but was prepared to foot the bill as long as she knew how much she would be paying.

A man who drove past the protest rolled down his window and exchanged strong words with the protestors, demanding they leave the area.

The campaigners stood their ground and insisted they have a democratic right to protest, and that that right should be respected.

Irish Water contractors had installed about 12 meters at the entrance to Elmvale before the protest took hold. Several members of the group stood inside safety barriers erected around a stopcock, forcing contractors to down tools.

Local resident Sharon Deane, who led the protest, said she will do what she can to prevent installation work from continuing.

“I just decided that something has to be done about this,” she said.

“I spoke to a lot of residents and only about five people got notice the work was to be done. That just isn’t good enough.

“And the stopcock for my property is on my property, so I will have to give them permission. And if a worker injures himself, I’m liable. I’m not taking that responsibility. I’m prepared to sit on it if I have to. We will do what it takes to stop this. People have nothing left to give.”

Meanwhile, members of that campaign group attended a meeting on the city’s northside last night to brief anti-water meter campaigners there on their campaign to date.

* Irish Water’s helpline is now live on 1890 278 278.

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