Dramatic fall in water meter fitting before general election
The installation of Irish Water meters dropped dramatically in the months before the General Election.
The Herald can today reveal that, despite the best efforts of gardai and contracted workers for Irish Water, the installation of meters has stalled in some areas of Dublin because of protesters - some of whom have been prosecuted at local district courts.
In January 2015, there were 7,797 meters installed across Dublin, but in January this year that figure was just 224, a reduction of more than 97pc.
Nationally, there was 29,645 meters installed in January 2015 compared to 7,549 in January of this year, a reduction of almost 75pc.
Irish Water denied the massive drop in the number of meters being installed had anything to do with the General Election being held.
"As has been widely reported, there has been a number of instances of targeted aggression towards individual members of the metering teams in Waterford, Donegal and Dublin - which has necessitated the temporary cessation of works by the regional contractor," an Irish Water spokesman said.
"This, in turn, has curtailed Irish Water's ability to install meters at those locations and this work will be rescheduled at a later stage in the project to enable it to be carried out in a safe manner," the company added.
At one stage in Dublin, ad-hoc "flying columns" prevented installations across the city.
The group, which often includes hardline republicans and people who conceal their identities, adopted the name given to famous IRA units from the War of Independence.
A member of the group previously described how a Facebook page was used to mobilise protesters to sites where water meters were being installed.
"The flying column... reaches both sides of the city and beyond in some cases," one member said. "There's no structure to it. It's pretty loose. It could be anything from 10 or 12 people up to 25."
The figures supplied by Irish Water show that from September 2015 there had been a steady decline in the numbers of meters fitted, from 17,010 in September to 15,393 in October, 13,317 in November, 9,202 in December last, and 7,549 in January.
An estimated 825,000 domestic water meters have been installed out of the planned 1.1 million units that Irish Water had said would be necessary at the beginning of the installation programme. The roll-out began in August 2013 and Irish Water said they were ahead of schedule.
"Domestic water meters were installed at three times the rate of comparable programmes in the UK," the company said.
"In some regions the majority of the planned meter installations have now been substantially completed.
"It is to be expected that over the life cycle of a programme of this nature there are fluctuations month to month, and this is accounted for in the planning and programming of works to account for factors such as the construction industry holidays.
"Typically, at the start of a project of this kind, the monthly installation rate will rise steadily in the beginning, level off and then decline month on month as the project nears completion.
"No changes have been made to the metering programme due to the General Election - and that program continues on a phased basis nationally."