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Scuffles and crisis meet ings as less than half of homes register

THERE were scuffles between protesters and gardai as Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrived at a function in Santry as anger over the Irish Water fiasco continued to rage.

A video emerged of two women and a man being pushed to the ground by gardai as the Taoiseach's car approached the sports complex in the north Dublin suburb.

Later that evening the protest moved to Coolock garda station after three of the protesters, two men and a woman, were arrested for obstruction and taken to the station.

It was claimed that pepper spray was used on some members of the around 50-strong crowd.

Crisis

A garda spokesman last night declined to comment on the video footage and said there was no information yet available about the use of pepper spray.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach also declined to comment on the protest that greeted Mr Kenny when he arrived in Santry and said that it was a matter for the gardai.

Demonstrators heckled Mr Kenny when he visited the complex and continued to shout slogans and heckle him as he departed.

"The guards were telling us to move back, and a couple of words were thrown back and forth," said Wayne Osbourne who was at the protest in nearby Coolock later in the evening.

"Then one of the guards started spraying people in the face.

"It hit one woman and it went directly into her eyes and mouth. She was coughing and gasping for air.

"There are armed guards here which is completely unnecessary," he added.

Meanwhile, less than half of households issued with registration packs from Irish Water have returned them, with just over three weeks to go until the extended deadline passes.

The Herald has learned that only 820,000 households have registered with Irish Water out of nearly two million issued. The utility said it could not say how many of those who had registered had supplied PPS numbers as requested.

There were high-level political meetings last night as both the Labour and Fine Gael parliamentary parties convened to discuss water charges.

Tanaiste Joan Burton was warned that her Labour Party would "evaporate" at the next election over the Government's "shambolic handling" of the issue.

During the highly-charged meeting, TDs and senators openly predicted the party's demise. Several TDs and senators, including Arthur Spring, Susan O'Keeffe and Eamonn Maloney, voiced serious concern that the party's electoral hopes are now in jeopardy at the next general election.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny meanwhile heard dozens of TDs express their "exasperation" at the ongoing failure to deal with the debacle.

Several speakers said the Government had delivered a politically clever budget but got no benefits and now was not reaping credit for Ireland being the EU's fastest growing economy.

Mr Kenny told the meeting that a new comprehensive scheme of Irish Water charges and supports would be announced within the coming two weeks.

"We appear so incompetent on issues like Irish Water that there is a danger that the troika will get all the credit for fixing the economy and we will just get blamed for messing up," one FG backbencher said.

DEADLINE

The deadline for registering online and returning information packs to Irish Water has been extended to November 30, less than three weeks away.

The utility is now contacting local authorities all over the country trying to get the names of people living in council accommodation who have not yet registered with them.

It has also begun contacting private landlords looking for similar information on their tenants.

The issue has raised questions about possible breaches of data protection legislation, with Wicklow Sinn Fein county councillor John Brady expressing concern when he heard of the development at a council meeting on Monday night .

But the office of the Data Protection Commissioner has said its understanding is the council can supply names to Irish Water.

hnews@herald.ie


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