Campaigners welcome removal of water meters from Cork estate

Irish Water says meters will be reinstalled after what is to be temporary removal

Residents of a Cork housing estate have welcomed the removal by Irish Water of a small number of water meters and have hailed the move as "a small victory" in their campaign against the introduction of water charges.

Some 20 or so residents of Ashbrook Heights in Togher on Cork's southside were present this morning when contractors from Irish Water came and removed all five meters which had been installed in the estate last month during protests by the residents.

One local resident, Brid O’Leary, welcomed the move by Irish Water - which The Irish Times understands was taken on health and safety grounds - but said the residents were determined to continue with their campaign against the introduction of metering and water charges.

"It's a small victory for us but it's only the beginning - it's only the water meters, there still the water charges and the water bill. Obviously this is a small victory, but we're happy not just for us but for the whole of Ireland - it shows that if you stand together, that things can be done," she said.

John Lonergan of the Ballyphehane and South Parish Anti-Water and Property Tax campaign group, who have been standing with the residents of Ashbrook Heights, also welcomed the move by Irish Water and said it followed discussions between the company and the local residents.

“Irish Water came up last week and they said they were going to come in with permission to take out the five water meters that were installed - the residents had a meeting and agreed to that and they were supposed to come last Monday but they never turned up,” said Mr Lonergan.

“Two engineers from Irish Water arrived yesterday and said they would be here this morning at 9 o’clock and there was a little bit of verbals at first because the residents thought they were taking out the boundary boxes, but they’ve just taken out the water meters.

“I think it’s fantastic, but from the point of view of the campaign, we’re not classing it as a victory, it’s only the start of the war and there are a lot more housing estates in Cork city and county that are asking us what can be done because they too are opposed to water charges and metering.”

Mr Lonergan said at least 20 housing estates in Cork, including three estates in Farranree, one in Mayfield and three in Douglas, as well as others in Carrigaline and Passage West in the county, had been in touch seeking their advice and support.

“We see this as just another stage in the ongoing battle against the installation of water meters and the privatisation of water in this country - as far as we’re concerned our campaign goes on to the next estate because there are plenty other places where Irish Water wants to put in meters.”

In a statement, Irish Water said the removal of the five meters was a temporary measure as part of planned permanent reinstatement works to pathways and surrounding areas in the Ashbrook Heights estate.

“Five meters in new boundary boxes have been removed temporarily for inspection and will be reinstalled in due course as part of the completion of works in the estate. No boundary meter boxes have been removed,” said the statement.