Tensions mount at water meter blockade as two injured

Defiant campaigners have vowed to maintain their water meter blockade in a Cork housing estate despite angry clashes yesterday which led to two people being hospitalised.

Tensions mount at water meter blockade as two injured

Campaign spokesman John Lonergan said while the incidents were regrettable, the protest at Ashbrook Heights in Togher will continue.

“It’s business as usual as far as we are concerned,” he said.

“We will be there from early morning. They are not putting in any water meters and that is that.”

Gardaí have launched investigations after a water meter protester in his 60s and an Irish Water contractor were hospitalised following separate incidents in the estate as tensions in the week-old water meter standoff escalated.

The contractors moved in just before 6.30am in their first attempt in a week to install water meters in the 65-house estate.

Gardaí warned residents they could not block the public road, but could continue their protest on the footpath.

The workers then began to set up safety barriers and machinery outside several homes.

But there were clashes later when protesters arrived and began to block the work.

One contractor suffered a minor arm injury during an exchange with one protester who tried to climb inside a safety cordon. The worker was taken to hospital as a precaution.

And later, protester John O’Donovan claimed he was struck in the leg by a plastic safety barrier, causing injury to one of his legs, and an injury to his back as he twisted and fell to the ground where he said he suffered a panic attack.

“I got a massive blow to my leg and my back and I fell to the ground. I got a panic attack then, on the fright of it,” he said.

“I knew the way they came in here this morning that someone was going to get injured.

“I’ve never seen the like of the thuggery that went on here this morning. “There was so much aggression, I knew this would happen.”

He was taken by ambulance to CUH where he was x-rayed, and underwent abdominal and spinal assessments.

Doctors gave him the all-clear and he was discharged a short time later.

Speaking afterwards, he said he is considering legal action and plans to make a statement to the gardaí.

“Someone could have been killed up there this morning,” he said.

“I’m going to have to rest up for a few days but my colleagues will carry on the fight.”

Irish Water said it is investigating the actions which resulted in an alleged injury to one of its workers and an alleged injury to a protester.

“Irish Water has notified An Garda Siochána, who are investigating the circumstances of the incidents,” a spokesman said.

“Until that investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate for Irish Water to comment further.”

But he rejected protesters’ claims that Irish Water used “heavy-handed tactics”.

“Throughout the (water meter installation) programme, Irish Water’s contractors have consistently acted with patience and professionalism in their work, even in trying circumstances,” he said.

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