Hammers, hot water and fake guns used on water workers

Protesters have sought contractors’ home addresses through social media - Minister

Minister of State for Environment Paudie Coffey said in one case, water meter installers were held in a van for over twelve hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities. Photograph: Frank Miller

Minister of State for Environment Paudie Coffey said in one case, water meter installers were held in a van for over twelve hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

About 50 water meter installation workers have been assaulted by protestors, the Dáil has heard.

Minister of State for Environment Paudie Coffey outlined what he called “horrific” stories of attacks on installers.

He said “we have had meter installers followed home and in one case, this led to an assault that involved a meter worker being bitten”.

He said in the region of 50 assaults have been reported with workers being punched, kicked and headbutted. “Hot water has been thrown on workers. Tyres have been slashed on a number of work vehicles including at the homes of workers. Some protesters have driven their cars at metering staff and at barriers behind which metering staff are working or while they have been operating heavy machinery. “

He said “workers have been spat at, had objects hurled at them from glass to stones and been hit with hammers and shovels. There has been verbal abuse and threats of violence.”

Mr Coffey said there had been a heavy and persistent level of online intimidation and encouragement of cyber and physical abuse towards workers. “Social media has been used to find names and addresses of workers. “We have instances where workers have been intimidated by use of false firearms.”

He added that in one case, installers were held in a van for over twelve hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities.

“To deny someone the right to food and water for over twelve hours is not a protest, it is thuggery.” He accepted that people were angry and frustrated “but there is no justification whatsoever for this behaviour in a democratic society”.

He was speaking during a Sinn Féin private member’s debate on a Bill to hold a referendum to prevent any privatisation in the future of the water authority.