herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Water protesters now wearing balaclavas to protect their identity

Two men, one with a balaclava, block vans and, inset, another protester
Two men, one with a balaclava, block vans and, inset, another protester
A water protester at Stoney Road North Strand

ThESE water protesters have begun to wear balaclavas to cover their faces as they picket installers in Dublin.

Our images, taken in the Liberties area of the south west inner city, show protesters attempting to block GMC Sierra vans by leaning against them.

One of the men has a black balaclava hiding his face. In another image a second man can be seen wearing a balaclava.

"It's not protesting [in the traditional sense] and residents are not particularly happy with what's happening," a source who did not want to be named for safety reasons told the Herald.

While many of the protests in the area have been peaceful, it is feared that a core group of up to 10 people are bringing a different element to protests.

READ MORE: Irish Water demands tenant details from councils

Labour Cllr Dermot Lacey said that the practice of covering one's face in this way was "absolutely, completely unacceptable".

"There are a lot of people who may be against water charges or fed up with austerity but they are unhappy with some of the bullying that seems to be going on," he told the Herald.

"If someone is covering their face with a balaclava when I'm walking down the street then I would certainly find that intimidating. I don't have any problem with people protesting.

"Those political figures involved in the movement should call a halt to it," he added.

People Before Profit's Tina McVeigh, who represents the south-west inner city, defended those who decide to cover their faces during protests.

Though she does not cover her own face during protests she said she understands why others do. Some people involved in the campaign are concerned about the court injunctions that lead to the jailing of four protesters earlier this year.

Others, she said, are concerned about their social welfare entitlements.

"These are people who are known to us, they have been around the campaign a long time, it is not connected in any way to anything sinister," she said.

IMG 0280.jpg
A water protester at Stoney Road North Strand

"It does come up with residents who will come out and ask why the balaclavas or scarves, but I've yet to meet anyone who has had a problem once we explain it to them."

Previously the Herald captured footage of protesters (with uncovered faces) pushing contract workers up the streets with safety barriers.

However, Cllr McVeigh, who is one of the leading co-ordinators of the campaigns, said that mostly their relationship with a lot of the workers is "great".

"We have a great relationship with a lot of the workers, they know us now and they know that we are 100pc committed to peaceful protest," she said.

Meanwhile, a group in the area has started to refer to themselves as a "flying column" and will travel to other parts of the city to protest.

hnews@herald.ie

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