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Meter work is halted as garda chief fears escalation in violence

THE installation of water meters has been halted in troubled spots of Dublin amid fears of an escalation of violent protests.

As one senior Government minister said the anti-water campaign has been hijacked by a "sinister fringe", the Herald has learned that the company behind the installation of meters has now postponed works in parts of the Northside.

The work was halted pending a review of a significant High Court order that created a 20-metre exclusion zone around workers.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan yesterday revised the order to state that it does not apply to residents going to or leaving their own homes.

Meter installation firm GMC Sierra Ltd has suspended planned works today while the implications of the High Court ruling are reviewed.

The news comes amid growing fears of further hostile demonstrations.

The violence at a demonstration in Coolock on Wednesday evening - which saw missiles hurled at the local Garda Station - has prompted a senior officer to issue a warning to protesters.

The stand-off followed the arrest of two men and a woman in Santry earlier that day when protesters created a blockade in an attempt to stop Taoiseach Enda Kenny from leaving an event.

Superintendent Ronan Galligan told the Herald last night that some protesters in Coolock engaged in criminality and instilled fear among the community.

Patrol cars were impeded in attending other emergencies, and criminal damage was also carried out, Mr Galligan said.

"While we respect the right to peaceful protest, what happened on Wednesday night went over the line. There was criminality involved, the community of Coolock village felt intimidated and in fear and that is not the essence of what peaceful protest is about," he said.

"Our mission is to work with communities in order to protect the people and families living in them. Our values are honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism," he added.

Supt Galligan warned that many individuals involved in the chaotic demonstration outside Coolock Garda Station on Wednesday night will be prosecuted.

The remarks by the senior officer were made as more than 20 residents in North Dublin obstructed Irish Water staff installing meters.


Three people climbed onto the back of a truck carrying gravel at Leinster Road North, Phibsboro, and one on them chained his neck to a grabber.

Irish Water staff had arrived in the area at 8.30am yesterday.

Other protesters sat in the holes made for the meters to prevent them being installed.

The staff then moved to the nearby Munster Road.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday said that some protests had been hijacked by a "sinister fringe" and that he feared a repeat of the violent scenes in Coolock.

"What strikes me is that there is a very sinister fringe to some of the water protests", he told Newstalk Breakfast.

"They abuse the gardai, they break the law, they engage in violence, they spread all sorts of misinformation and what I'm worried about is that it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt", Mr Varadkar added.

His Cabinet colleague, Alan Kelly, vowed that householders who refuse to pay the controversial new water charges will not have their water supply disconnected or reduced.

"I don't think it was appropriate to be using the language of telling people their water would be disconnected or the pressure reduced if they didn't pay.

"I don't think it was helpful from day one, and wasn't the approach that should have been taken," he said.

However, Irish Water boss John Tierney said that people opposing the charges are making life difficult for his staff.