Protester dug up meter and posted it to Irish Water, court hears

Dermot Murphy seeks orders against company requiring it to replace plastic meter covers

A water charges protester who dug up a water meter from the pavement outside his home and sent it to Irish Water with an invoice has claimed before the High Court the plastic cover installed over the meter was unsafe.

Irish Water denies the claims and its counsel Cian Ferriter SC argued Dermot Murphy was seeking to use the court "as a platform for his political views" and to campaign against Irish Water.

Mr Murphy, Lakeview, Mullingar, is seeking orders against the company requiring it to replace the plastic covers, of which, the court heard, some 600,000 have been installed around the country.

Constitutional right

Representing himself, Mr Murphy claims his constitutional right to bodily integrity had been infringed by Irish Water in installing plastic covers that were “not fit for purpose”.


He had written to Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly about the matter but was told to take it up with Irish Water, he said.

He said he was very concerned the new meters could be tampered with. There were examples where a child, as a joke played on his mother, interfered with the meter and put washing up liquid in it which led to bubbles coming out of a tap at the house, he said.

There was also a videoed incident where red dye came out of a tap after someone took out a meter, he added.

He said the plastic meter covers could take a weight of 2.2 tonnes while the older cast iron covers could take four times that weight.

He sometimes used a mini-digger, which he was unable to drive over the plastic cover at his house, he added.

He said there were guidelines suggesting the plastic covers were only suitable for pedestrian areas and should not be put in locations involving vehicle access.

While Irish Water had said it had manufacturers’ reports stating the covers could be used in this way, he disagreed.

‘Legally misconceived’

Mr Ferriter, for Irish Water, argued Mr Murphy's case was "fundamentally legally misconceived" and he had made out no case entitling him to injunctions against the company.

Mr Murphy could not get such orders without making out a risk of injury, and he had failed to prove any such risk entitling him to orders requiring a different cover be installed, counsel said.

Irish Water had “unrefuted” expert evidence of the standards and quality of the covers at issue, which were of an “absolutely standard” form.

There was also “a clear element of turpitude” in Mr Murphy’s actions, he said, as he had dug up the meter, posted it to Irish Water with an invoice for the cost of taking it back, and was actively agitating on social media sites for a boycott of water charges, counsel added.

Not replaced

The dug-up meter had not been replaced, he said.

Mr Ferriter said Mr Murphy had founded a “self-styled national citizens’ movement” which actively agitated for a boycott of Irish Water and advocated the ripping out of meters by what was referred to as the “water fairies”, counsel said.

After these proceedings were initiated, a hole was hammered “by brute force” into a meter cover to support the claims the covers were not fit for purpose, he said.

Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan, having heard arguments from both sides on Thursday, said she will rule on Mr Murphy’s application next week.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times