Saturday 7 December 2019

Gardai put in 'invidious' position - anti-water charge campaigners say

A group of protesters and gardai pictured outside the Four Courts after a High court action involving Irish Water. Pic: Courts Collins
A group of protesters and gardai pictured outside the Four Courts after a High court action involving Irish Water. Pic: Courts Collins
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Anti-water charge campaigners claim gardai have been put in an 'invidious' position by the Government's controversial tax.

The Right2Water campaign said frontline officers have been forced to balance different sets of rights, but warned that must include the right to peaceful protest.

It also hit back at claims that officers have been threatened or assaulted, or that demonstrations were organised by "fringe elements".

Read more: Gardai involved in policing water protests threatened and assaulted - union

In a statement it stressed that over the past month Right2Water organised a major demonstration in Dublin, attended by 100,000 people, and over 100 local demonstrations attended by over 150,000 people.

"These events were organised with the full cooperation of the Gardai, and no arrests were reported at these events," it said.

"Right2Water is committed to campaigning peacefully for the recognition that water is a human right, and for the abolition of domestic water charges.

"Right2Water believes that the gardai have been put in an invidious position by the Government’s massively unpopular water charges policy, which has forced the gardai to balance different sets of rights – which must include the right to peaceful protest."

Campaigners said it was an independent umbrella group comprising five trade unions and several political socialist and independent political parties.

Earlier the Garda Representative Association (GRA) claimed officers involved in policing water protests are becoming increasingly concerned for their safety

It said officers have been subjected to both direct and online threats because of their presence at water protests.

GRA President Dermot O’Brien said: "Rank and file gardaí do not make laws, and are required to pay the charges themselves.

"Members work with peaceful protesters, but this darker element is to be condemned by the public, media and our political leaders.

"Gardaí are increasingly concerned that the uniform no longer offers the protection of our democratic society."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's car makes his way through angry water charge protestors
Taoiseach Enda Kenny's car makes his way through angry water charge protestors

Mr O'Brien said that his organisation has seen “steadily increasingly assaults” on rank-and-file gardai.

"The number of assaults on gardaí have been steadily increasing - running at around three per day - yet this has not been headline news, and was in danger of being seen as an occupational hazard," he continued.

"An assault on a garda is an assault on Irish society and our communities."The stark warning from the representative body comes on the back of a series of unruly protests in areas such as Coolock, Santry and Phibsboro.

A number of ministers, including Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton, have criticised “fringe elements” of these demonstrations.

Read more: Water protests infiltrated by dissidents as meters on hold

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