The Ballyphehane/ South Parish Says No To Water Charges group in Cork, which has organised water meter blockades across the city and county for over a year, is now resisting meter installation in its own area.
Group members have spent the last two days blocking Irish Water contractors from installing meters in the Ballyphehane and Turner’s Cross areas of the city.
A spokesman, John Lonergan, said the time has finally come for them to “defend our own patch”.
“We have been waiting for over a year for this. We know they have a job to do but we have hundreds of people in Ballyphehane who don’t want water meters, and who don’t want our water privatised.
“We have phenomenal support in this part of the city. We have been astounded by the community support. We will continue this blockade indefinitely.”
Mr Lonergan was speaking as members of the protest group, several of whom were among a group which stormed City Hall and interrupted city council meetings several times earlier this year, joined local residents on the second day of a blockade in the Clareville Estate area of Ballyphehane.
The group, whose members were standing inside the contractors’ work zone barriers, claimed that their protest forced the withdrawal of contractors from the area, and prevented the installation of dozens of water meters.
Members of a new Garda unit set up specifically to police water protests was called to the estate on Monday, and again yesterday.
But Mr Lonergan criticised the deployment of up to 13 gardaí to the estate, and the group posted several videos on social media platforms showing a standoff between gardaí and protestors.
The video shows Mr Lonergan and several other members of the group standing inside plastic barriers erected by the contractors around areas earmarked for meter installation.
It shows gardaí explaining to the protestors that they were in receipt of a complaint that the protestors were interfering with the installation of water meters. A court order is in place directing protestors not to come within 20m of water meter installation work zones, and to not interfere with water meter installation work.
The video goes on to show protestors arguing that the court order infringes on their constitutional right to peaceful protest. The standoff lasts several minutes and ends without arrests.
Mr Lonergan said despite his criticism of the strong garda presence, the protestors have established a good relationship with gardaí. He also said the protest group is considering running a candidate in the forthcoming general election.
He said he himself is considering standing and that a meeting will take place in the Metropole Hotel next week to decide the group’s strategy ahead of the election.