Water protesters ‘all have expensive phones’ - Burton
Independent TD alleges ‘political policing’ against local people against the tax
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said gardaí dealing with water meter protesters ‘have acted with extraordinary patience, firmness and courtesy to people who have been giving them an extremely difficult and hard time’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times
Tánaiste Joan Burton has claimed anti-water meter protestors are intimidating residents in some estates and using phones and videos to film everything.
Ms Burton made the claim as Independent TD Joan Collins alleged “political policing” by gardaí against protestors.
Ms Collins said peaceful protests were being “forcibly broken up by large numbers of gardaí”. The Dublin South-Central TD said people had been manhandled, pushed, pulled and shoved and in some cases in a very aggressive manner, and there had been numerous arrests.
In a small estate of 27 houses on Clanbrassil Street, 19 gardaí were brought in. One resident was taken to hospital with an ankle injury and in Clare Hall 26 gardaí were involved, taken from stations across Dublin, she said.
This raised the question of political policing with the gardaí “mobilised to break up popular resistance to an unjust tax”, she said.
Dublin city council passed a motion condemning heavy handed tactics in trying to suppress these protests, she added.
Asked to intervene to defend the rights of protestors, Ms Burton said she had received “a lot of complaints from people who find themselves intimidated by some of the people taking over their estates and actually deciding what their attitude should be in relation to Irish Water”.
She said to Ms Collins: “You should also bear in mind that a lot of people do not like some of the people who’ve arrived in estates ... and create blockades and they would like those people to leave these estates.”
The Tánaiste said she had seen the gardaí in a number of situations “where they have acted with extraordinary patience, firmness and courtesy to people who have been giving them an extremely difficult and hard time. And I think they have responded with complete professionalism.”
Ms Collins insisted those against the installation of water meters were local residents. She said there had been an extraordinary spontaneous protest in Crumlin where for 15 days protestors demonstrated and no water meters went in. The same happened in Drimnagh but the workers got paid whether they put the meters in or not, she said.
Ordinary people were protesting and people had a right to say no and “will you not condemn the tactics of a small number of gardaí who are stepping out of control and creating chaos in the communities”.
Ms Burton said all the protestors she had seen seemed to have “extremely expensive phones, tablets and video cameras” and there had been extensive filming of every second of these actions.
She said a core part of the campaign was to video every single second . “There has been the most extensive filming in relation to any of these actions than I have ever seen anywhere. Hollywood would be in the ha’penny place.”
Ms Burton said all the material that looked controversial was immediately posted on Facebook .
But she did not think the extensive filming actually showed gardaí behaving improperly.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed people who did not pay their water charges would be cut off and said Ms Burton should be ashamed of herself.
But the Tánaiste said that was a “big Sinn Féin lie” and under the legislation water supply could not be cut off.