Irish Water denies that removal of meters is a U-turn
IRISH Water has dismissed claims of a major U-turn in its policy towards disputed water meter installations after it removed equipment from a housing estate at the centre of a bitter three-week stand-off.
Five water meters were dug up and removed yesterday by contractors acting for Irish Water in the Ashbrook Heights estate in Togher, Cork.
However, Irish Water said that meters will be installed at the homes in the future.
The works came after a three-week protest campaign which saw residents and protesters repeatedly blocking contractors from installing meters.
Protesters climbed into excavations and stood in front of heavy machinery, preventing the work from proceeding.
Gardai attended the scene on numerous occasions but no arrests were made.
Yesterday, contractors for Irish Water were cheered and offered tea, coffee and scones as they began removing the disputed meters from 9am.
Residents and protesters claimed victory in their protest campaign and predicted Irish Water would now be forced into similar equipment removals from estates at the centre of other protests nationwide.
However, Irish Water insisted the removal of the five meters was undertaken purely on health and safety grounds.
"In the Ashbrook estate, Irish Water is performing permanent reinstatement works to pathways and surrounding areas as planned," a spokesman said.
"There are six boundary installations impacted. Five meters in new boundary boxes have been removed temporarily for inspection and will be re-installed in due course as part of the completion of works in the estate.
"No meter (boundary) boxes have been removed. Residents were informed that Irish Water was doing this."
Irish Water confirmed that in accordance with national policy, water meters will be installed at all suitable properties including those at Ashbrook estate.
But residents and protesters claimed the equipment removals represented a turning point in their campaign.
"We are here for however long it takes.
!We aren't going anywhere because we have the support of Ashbrook residents and the people of Cork," John Lonergan said.
Mr Lonergan said other communities nationwide now have to stand up for their rights and object to water meters being installed.
Mother of two and Ashbrook resident Suzanne O'Flynn lives just metres from the protests.
"I have no problem with a flat water charge because I think that is fair," she said.
"I have no problem with a normal water meter. But I do not want a smart meter outside my home," she added.
Another resident, Marie Cummins, paid tribute to the protesters.
"Fair play to them, they are fighting for everyone's rights and we support them all the way," she said.
John O'Donovan of the Campaign Against Home and and Water Taxes, said the peaceful demonstration was an example of how "people power can triumph" no matter what the odds.
"If people stand together they can stop this unfair charge.
"I'm here for however long it takes."
"This is a major challenge to the people of Ireland. Without our national assets, like water, we have nothing left as a people," protester Brian Coleman warned.
Irish Water estimates that over 27,000 meters a month are now being installed.
Over 1,100 water meters were successfully installed one day last week.
The agency has exceeded the 200,000 mark for water meter installations nationwide as the first bills are due to be issued from January.
Anyone without a meter will receive a flat rate bill next year.