Gardai attempt to break up water protests


The Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, has been forced to seek a meeting with Garda police chiefs over what he described as the excessive force being used against anti-water charge protestors in the city.

Mr Burke said he had sought a meeting after reports of Gardai being “heavy handed” with residents protesting against the installation of water metres.

Meters continue to be installed across the State by GMC Sierra on behalf of Irish Water, set up in response to the demands of the International Monetary Fund following the banking crisis.

In one Dublin estate this week, clashes with gardai were described as “pandemonium” and one woman was injured in the clashes.

The Mayor said he was concerned that “at a time when we don’t have sufficient Gardai to respond to crimes, between 20 and 30 Gardai a time are being deployed on single streets to assist Irish Water.”

He was speaking after he voted in favour of an emergency motion at Dublin City Council on Monday night deploring “the recent excessive mobilisation of Gardai including the Public Order Unit into housing estates in Ayrfield, Edenmore, Donaghmede and Clare Hall”. The motion was passed.

In a small estate of 27 houses on Clanbrassil Street in south Dublin, 19 gardai were used to break up a protest by residents peacefully opposing the water meter installation.

But the worst of the trouble was in Clarehall, north Dublin, where dozens of Gardai and a number of Garda vans descended on about 150 protestors. In video footage, Gardai could be seen to roughly pushing people away from a cordoned area. One female Garda filmed events, while protestors also recorded the trouble on mobile phones.

Among those protesting was resident, Caroline Purdy, a housewife and mother of two. “I don’t want to pay water charges. I think it’s wrong. This has been forced on us and we’ve all paid already though our taxes. The Guards are supposed to be looking after us. I know they have a job, but why are they protecting them? And why so many Guards? Stations all over Dublin are down Garda numbers.”

Anger at the meter installations was inflamed this week by allegations that billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien, who has political links to Fine Gael, was instrumental in securing the State contract to install water meters for Irish Water.

Independent TD Mick Wallace made the claim and said that in the deal, 100 million owed by O’Brien’s Siteserv firm to the state-owned IBRC bank had been wiped out.

And Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, the former junior minister who helped set up Irish Water, described the firm’s approach to introducing water charges as “an unmitigated disaster”. He also said he feared Irish Water had become “another cosseted quango with a bonus culture” after it emerged that staff will receive “performance-related awards” - which the firm denied are bonuses - in the New Year.

Speaking in the Dail, Independent TD Joan Collins condemned the “political policing” of the water protests. The Dublin South-Central TD said people had been “manhandled, pushed, pulled and shoved and in some cases in a very aggressive manner”.

In response, Tanaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton said said the Gardai had acted “with extraordinary patience, firmness and courtesy”.

In comments which have since been widely ridiculed, she complained that all the protestors she had seen seemed to have “extremely expensive phones, tablets and video cameras”.

She also expressed dismay that there had been extensive filming of Garda actions at the protests. “Hollywood would be in the ha’penny place,” she said.

A major anti-water charges protest, supported by trade unions, Sinn Fein and other political parties and national organisations, is to take place in Dublin on Saturday at 2pm. See for more information.

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