Water protesters want special garda unit scrapped

Opponents of Irish Water have demanded the immediate disbandment of a 25-strong unit, set up in Cork, to monitor and deal with any likely violence at protests over water meters.

Cork-based groups claimed all the protests in the city to date had been peaceful.

Meanwhile, Irish Water yesterday insisted 55% of customers had paid water charges at the end of the second bill cycle, compared to 44% at the end of the first cycle.

Irish Water’s Elizabeth Arnett said 745,000 households had paid during the second billing cycle, compared to 675,000 in the first.

In total, 830,000 households had paid part or all of their bills, representing 55% of the customer base of 1.52 million.

“We expect this number to grow as we go through future billing cycles,” she said, revealing €68.4m had been received to date.

In Cork, meantime, Chief Supt Michael Finn, who is in charge of policing in the city, said the number of officers assigned to the team will be fluid, depending on activities by protesters in different locations.

He said having to police protests while Irish Water employees or agents did their job was taking gardaí from regular policing.

The Mahon Says No (MSN) community group, however, expressed surprise. MSN member Rachael O’Sullivan said: “People literally cannot afford to pay these bills. And now we see our garda force creating new special teams to deal with us, the people they should be protecting. Why?

“The protestors are non-violent. There is no hassle or aggression so why are our over stretched garda being asked to do this?”

MSN’s Lar Ó Tuama said: “Such a presence will serve only to intimidate protesters, frighten residents into not protesting for fear of arrest and to force the unwanted meters on our community.”

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