It was only a matter of time before somebody was badly injured in the violent protests now taking place against the installation of water meters in Dublin, the High Court was told yesterday.
Jim O'Callaghan, counsel for a firm installing meters on behalf of Bord Gáis, said whether it would be a worker, a protester or a member of the public remained to be seen.
He told Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy that nine defendants – seven men and two women – were part of an organised campaign of intimidation and harassment against workers of GMC/Sierra Ltd, which had been contracted to install meters around the country.
Mr O’Callaghan showed video evidence to the court illustrating what he described as intimidation and harassment of workers by up to 30 people in the campaign, not all of whom were before the court.
Mr Justice McCarthy granted the company an injunction restraining the defendants, or anyone with knowledge of the court order, from assaulting, harassing, intimidating, endangering or otherwise unlawfully interfering with or obstructing workers lawfully installing meters in Dublin city.
The nine defendants were named in court as Colin McGettrick, of Woodbine Park, Edenmore, Raheny; Derek Byrne of Streamville, Donaghmede; Mark Langella of Greenwood Drive, Baldoyle; Steven Stout of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; Michael Batty of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; Audrey Clancy of Edenmore Avenue; Mark Egan of Tonlegee Drive, Coolock; Austin Dwyer of Elton Park, Ard na Greine; Lisa O'Loughlin Leavey of Edenmore Park.
Entitled to protest
Mr O’Callaghan said lGMC/Sierra recognised the entitlement of any member of the public to protest against the installation of water meters although it seemed unfair to blame the workers who were simply doing their job.
“The defendants are perfectly entitled to be present on the street where the meters are being installed and to have a peaceful protest,” Mr O’Callaghan said. “That is not what is happening here. The court will see evidence of workers being intimidated, harassed, hit, bullied and verbally abused.”
Mr Justice McCarthy said he had been persuaded by what was “apparently unlawful conduct which had to be restrained”. He granted the interim injunction until next Wednesday when it would come back before the court.
Gerry McCarthy, director of GMC/Sierra, of Millennium Business Park, Finglas West, Dublin, said his company had to date installed about 55,000 meters and was authorised to install a further 55,000.