WATER protestors have claimed victory after contractors began the removal of meters from a Cork estate following a bitter three week stand-off.
Contractors arrived at Ashbrook Heights in Togher, Cork at 9am today to remove a number of Irish Water meters which were controversially installed last month.
It remains unclear whether the removal of the meters represents a landmark in the campaign of opposition to water charges and the disputed installation of water meters.
Residents celebrated the work and, at one point, brought tea, coffee and scones to the workmen removing the disputed devices.
However, locals and protestors were also demanding that, as well as the water meters, a number of boundary boxes installed for Irish Water also be removed from the area.
The removal of the devices will also include the repair of the footpaths excavated to all for their installation.
A statement from Irish Water is expected later on the Togher development and its significance for their nationwide meter installation campaign.
By 11am, three meters had been removed from the Ashbrook estate.
All others are expected to be removed by this evening.
The development came after three weeks of protests and a stand-off at the Cork estate over the disputed installation of the meters.
Protestors and householders vowed to maintain round-the-clock blockades at Ashbrook Estate to prevent contractors from installing so-called smart meters on local water lines.
Residents parked their locked cars directly over water valves to prevent the work from proceeding even if contractors manage to get machinery onto the site.
Gardai called to the estate several times and warned protestors not to blockade the public roadway.
Gardai warned that the failure to abide by their instructions could result in arrests.
One protestor, Brian Gould, climbed into an excavation last month where contractors had been attempting to install meters.
Mr Gould said he was prepared to be arrested to protect the rights of local residents.
However, no arrests were made and contractors acting for Irish Water did not attempt to resume installation works in the 80 house estate leaving roughly one-tenth the number of meters required installed.
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.
Protestors warned that the battle is far from over.
“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.
Mother of two, Suzanne O'Flynn, lives just metres from the protests.
“I have no problem with a flat water charge because I think that is fair. I have no problem with a normal water meter. But I do not want a smart meter outside my home,” she said.
Another resident, Marie Cummins, paid tribute to the protestors.
“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.”
“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,” protestor Brian Coleman warned.