Threats with a machete, speeding cars veering towards workers, intimidation in the early hours, and rocks thrown at vans were among the instances of abuse and assault reported by Irish Water staff over the past three years.
A log of flashpoints since 2017 shows 21 instances reported by staff or contractors, including 10 last year.
In Galway City, last year, a contractor crew were threatened with a machete by a homeowner, according to records released under a Freedom of Information request. A note explained: “The male involved was standing on his property, waving the 500mm machete at the contractor crew installing boundary boxes in the footpath outside his house.”
Two incidents were also recorded in Co Donegal. In March, “one of [the] contractor’s traffic-management operatives was assaulted by a member of the public. As of yet unsure if he needed medical treatment. The operative reported the incident to the gardaí.” Another, similar incident followed three months later, in June, in the same county.
A database of the complaints noted: “Contractor operative was attacked by a stranger. Operative received several blows to the head, before the gardaí arrived and arrested the attacker. Operative was taken to hospital for examination and was advised to rest for the remainder of the day.”
In another incident last year, three employees of Dublin City Council, who were working on behalf of Irish Water, were verbally abused by a gang of people: “While one individual shouted obscenities and referred to … employees as ‘scumbags’, ‘kn***ers’, and ‘Irish Water scum’, another photographed their vehicles.” The records also detail another assault, on a worker in Tipperary in February, along with “insinuating remarks.”
In 2018, five assaults or threats were recorded, including one sinister incident in the early hours in Dublin City.
“[The] incident took place at 2am, when gang of 4/5 persons questioned crew about their work and looked for ID,” said the Irish Water records.
In Co Mayo, a staff member of Irish Water sat into her vehicle and was starting to reverse, when she noticed a cardboard box had been placed against the rear wheel. She then got out and removed the box, and noticed abusive graffiti had been daubed on the vehicle.
Six further incidents were reported in 2017, including one where a member of the public harassed a staff member on the phone and then turned up at Irish Water offices to continue verbally abusing him.
In another case, in north Dublin that March, two cars approached a work site at high speed: “Just as the vehicles passed by the works, [a] silver car swerved in towards an operative. Operatives had to jump onto the bank to avoid the car,” the records said. The cars crashed into each other and clipped an Irish Water cabin.
“The two cars stopped a short distance up the road. There were four people in the silver car and three people in the red car. They got out of the cars and starting roaring down towards the crew, who were within the caged site.”
The gang then got back into the two cars, only to return to verbally abuse and threaten the work crew.
In Co Limerick, a contractor drove to an emergency job as part of a leakage- repair project. A description said: “Local children threw rocks at their van and damaged it.”