Water meter contractors have been blockaded from installing meters in Cork and Dublin in a spontaneous campaign by two communities against the new tax on householders.
The new water charge was initially demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of its demands for bailing out the 26-County state following the collapse of the state’s banking system in 2008. After years of development by international consultancy firms, the government-owned ‘Irish Water’ organisation has said it has begun installing around 27,000 meters a month.
Following a second day of simple blockade-type protests this week, Garda police were deployed to Togher on Cork’s southside and confronted the residents, claiming that they were not entitled to prevent access to the estate. However, the protests continued, and pickets manned by eight volunteers remained in place, with locals ferrying tea and scones to the protestors.
Cork protestor John Lonergan said the water contractors had arrived with no prior notice to the people inside.
“They had dug some holes and we sent people to stand in the holes so they couldn’t install the smart meters and we’re here again and we’ll stay here as long as it takes - people here do not want these smart water meters.”
Contractors had to withdraw from the housing estate on Tuesday after being confronted by over 100 parents and children protesting against water meter installation works.
A number of families, including mothers and children, surrounded the work areas and refused to allow the work to continue, creating a stand-off.
“Irish Water have already faced this type of opposition all around the country but there’s been no media coverage,” Mr Lonergan said. “We’re not doing it for the media, we want an answer from Irish Water why they are installing smart water meters when people don’t want them.”
There were concerns about the health implications of the high-cost ‘smart’ water meters which are controlled remotely through an unusual radio technology.
Mr Lonergan said the system implemented would allow Irish Water staff would be able to turn off the water of struggling homeownwers from a distance “with a laptop”. It’s “totally wrong”, he said.
Irish Water contractors were also forced away from an estate in Raheny in Dublin after local residents staged a protest there.
The demonstration took place at Watermill Drive after residents rallied locals via social media. “They’ll be back, and so will we,” said one resident.
The drive to charge for water supply comes despite a mounting public concern over the descent of many Irish families into poverty and homelessness.
John O’Donovan of the Campaign Against Home and and Water Taxes said the peaceful demonstrations were an example of how people power can triumph.
“We stood and blocked them while their were digging. They have no consent from any of the householders to do this,” he said. “Basically what they are doing is pushing contracts on people and it is a one-sided contract.”
“They have no permission given by anyone...to be putting meters outside people’s homes. They are pushing this on us without even asking for permission to do so”.
The first meter readings are due to take place in October, with the first bills expected to be issued in January.