Sunday 25 September 2016

Water charges protester who dug up meter and sent it to Irish Water with an invoice claims plastic covers over the meters are unsafe

Published 10/03/2016 | 17:25

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A WATER charges protester who dug up a meter on the pavement outside his home - and sent it to Irish Water with an invoice - claims plastic covers over the meters are unsafe.

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Irish Water denies the claims and says Dermot Murphy was seeking to use the legal process "as a platform for his political views", the High Court heard.

Mr Murphy, Lakeview, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, is seeking orders against the company requiring it to replace the plastic covers of which, the court heard, some 600,000 have been installed around the country.

Representing himself, Mr Murphy claims his constitutional right to bodily integrity had been infringed by Irish Water in installing plastic covers that were "not fit for purpose".

He was very concerned the new meters could be tampered with.

There were examples where a child, as a joke played on his mother, interfered with the meter and put washing up liquid in it which led to bubbles coming out of a tap, he said.

There was also a videoed incident where red dye came out of a tap after someone took out a meter, he said.

The plastic meter cover could take a weight of 2.2 ton while the older cast iron covers could take four times that weight, he said. He sometimes used a mini-digger which he was unable to drive over the plastic cover, he added.

He said there were guidelines suggesting the plastic covers were only suitable for pedestrian areas and should not be put in locations involving vehicle access.

While Irish Water had said it had manufacturers' reports stating the covers could be used in this way, he disagreed.

Cian Ferriter SC, for Irish Water, argued Mr Murphy's case was "fundamentally legally misconceived" and he had made out no case entitling him to injunctions against the company.

Mr Murphy could not get such orders without making out a risk of injury and he had failed to prove any such risk.

Irish Water had "unrefuted" expert evidence about the standards and quality of the covers at issue which were of an "absolutey standard" form.

There was also "a clear element of turpitude" in Mr Murphy's actions as he had dug up the meter, posted it to Irish Water with an invoice for the cost of taking it back and was actively agitating on social media sites for a boycott of water charges, counsel said. The dug up meter had not been replaced, he said.

Mr Ferriter said Mr Murphy had foudned a "self-styled national citizens movement" which actively agitated for a boycott of Irish Water and advocated the ripping out of meters by what was referred to as the "water fairies", counsel said.

After these proceedings were initiated, a hole was hammered "by brute force" into a meter cover to support the claims the covers were not fit for purpose, he said.

Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan said she would give her decision next week.

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