Three water protesters have been given suspended prison sentences for breaching a High Court order and are also liable for costs in the case.
Paul Moore of Mount Olive Grove in Kilbarrack, Damien O'Neill of Greenwood Park in Coolock, and Terence Sheridan of Kilbarron Park in Kilmore West, all Dublin, had previously been ordered not to go within 20m of contractors installing water meters and not to interfere with the entrance and exit of the installation company's vehicles.
However the High Court found that all three had breached the order and committed each man to prison for 28 days. All sentences were suspended for six months, providing they abide by the order made on November 5.
The High Court had, that day, granted an order to a water meter installation contractor, establishing the 20m exclusion zone around locations where its workers were installing meters in Dublin city.
GMC Sierra Ltd had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of the order from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.
Last week it moved contempt of court proceedings against four protesters, including the three men before the court yesterday, on grounds that they allegedly breached the 20m order.
Jim O'Callaghan, senior counsel for the company, said breaches of the orders had continued.
A worker was allegedly struck by a van, a known protester "kneed a worker in the face" and protesters breached the 20m safety zone, the court heard. It was not alleged that any of the three men had engaged in this violence.
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said that, after considering affidavits of witnesses and the three men themselves, he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that O'Neill, Sheridan and Moore had breached the order.
He said that if orders of the court were breached or ignored in any way, it undermined the very fabric upon which our democratic society was built.
"As such, the authority of the courts must be respected," he said. "The court cannot simply stand idly by while those who defy its orders go free and those who seek its protection lose out," he added.
He said a prison sentence for contempt of court was a last resort but he viewed the breaching of the order as a "serious affront to the authority of the court". He decided the appropriate penalty was to commit each man to prison for 28 days. He said he would suspend the sentence for six months provided they abide by the order and awarded costs against them.