It is only a matter of time before somebody was badly injured in violent protests now taking place against the installation of water meters, the High Court was told.
Jim O’Callaghan, counsel for a company which is installing meters on behalf of Bord Gais, said whether it would be a worker, a protester or a member of the public remained to be seen.
He told Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy that nine defendants, seven men and two women, were all part of an organised campaign of intimidation and harassment against workers of GMC/Sierra Limited, which had been contracted by Bord Gais to install meters throughout the country.
Mr O’Callaghan showed video evidence to the court illustrating what he described as intimidation and harassment of workers by up to 30 people involved in the campaign, not all of whom were before the court.
Judge McCarthy granted the company an injunction restraining the defendants, or anyone with knowledge of the court order, from assaulting, harassing, intimidating, endangering or otherwise unlawfully interfering with or obstructing workers lawfully installing meters in Dublin city.
The action was taken against several defendants, who were named in court.
Mr O’Callaghan said lGMC/Sierra fully recognised the entitlement of any member of the public to protest against the installation of water meters although it seemed unfair to blame the workers who were simply doing their job.
“The defendants are perfectly entitled to be present on the street where the meters are being installed and to have a peaceful protest,” Mr O’Callaghan said. “That is not what is happening here. The court will see evidence of workers being intimidated, harassed, hit, bullied and verbally abused.”
Judge McCarthy said he had been persuaded by what was “apparently unlawful conduct which had to be restrained.” He granted the interim injunction until next Wednesday morning when it would come back before the court.
Gerry McCarthy, director of GMC/Sierra, of Millennium Business Park, Finglas West, Dublin, said his company had to date installed about 55,000 meters and authorised to install a further 55,000.
It was employing a total of 477 workers most of whom of late had encountered difficulties in the areas of Dublin 5, 9 and 13. A number of individuals had been protesting, some of them peacefully, at some sites but in others the workers had been assaulted, intimidated and harassed.
Mr O’Callaghan told Judge McCarthy that the company had hired a security company to gather evidence of intimidation and harassment.
Joe O’Donohoe, of Mooretown, Kildare, said he was operations supervisor of GuardEx Limited which had been engaged to survey the protests and to identify the primary protesters who followed the work crews from work site to worksite.
In an affidavit he gave evidence of incidents involving the defendants which illustrated that GMC/Sierra employees were being subjected to a continuing campaign of verbal and physical abuse
If the protestors actions continued there was a risk that a worker or member of the public, even those not associated with the protests, would suffer injury as a consequence of the aggressive nature of some of the protesters.
The court heard that there had been incidents of head butting and punching and in one instance a firework having been thrown at and exploding in the vicinity of a meter installer.
Judge McCarthy, granting the interim injunction, said that on the face of the evidence before the court the conduct complained of was unlawful.
The application was made ex-parte, in the absence of the named defendants.