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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 5 June, 2020

Irish Water on those 'masked men' filming at meter protest sites

A Dáil question on whether workers for the beleaguered semi-state were allowed obscure their faces was disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle earlier this month.

One of the images of the 'masked' workers.
One of the images of the 'masked' workers.

IRISH WATER’S HEAD of communications has responded to questions about photos circulating on social media of men dressed in company-branded gear, apparently filming anti-charges protesters with their faces obscured.

Photos taken in Broadstone, Stoneybatter and elsewhere in Dublin have been circulating in recent months — of men decked out in all-weather gear, their faces masked by a combination of scarves, hats, helmets and sunglasses, and carrying cameras.

A Dáil question for the Environment Minister on the issue from TD Clare Daly was disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle earlier this month.

Daly told she had wanted to raise the issue so that Irish Water could investigate it — but that she had been told Minister Alan Kelly had no official responsibilty in the area.

We also asked about the issue — but were told by Kelly’s department it was a matter for Irish Water.

In follow-up queries, Irish Water told us in a statement that its workers were “not permitted to obscure their faces.  However, they do wear weather appropriate clothing and are provided with a hat as part of the standard issue personal protective clothing”.

It’s known Irish Water contractors GMC Sierra have hired a surveillance firm, Guardex - to film demonstrators involved in rolling protests against meter installations in the Dublin area.

In court last October, the company said it had evidence that GMC staff had been subjected to a continuing campaign of abuse by regular anti-charges demonstrators.

Daly told us it was “absolutely verifiable that Irish Water workers have dressed in this way and sought to intimidate communities”.

She said that if Irish Water “were saying that’s not their modus operandi” then she hoped they would investigate it.

Irish Water’s head of communications Elizabeth Arnett was in this website’s newsroom during the week for a wide-ranging Q&A.

Here’s what she had to say about the issue:

Source: Video

(In case you don’t have full video-playing capability at the moment – when asked if she could say definitively say that that an Irish Water contractor hadn’t hired a firm whose workers dressed in that manner, she said it was “certainly not something that would be acceptable for us”.)

Daly, meanwhile, said that someone needed to take responsibility if people were “allowed to travel around into communities behaving like that and no-one says anything”.

She said it was “not good enough” for the Department to abdicate its responsibility in the area.

Additional reporting, Hugh O’Connell. 

Read: Four water charge protesters are going to jail

Read: Courts were used to ‘attack’ peaceful water protesters, says TD

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