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Irish Water staff threatened with machete and pelted with rocks

An incident log shows that 21 instances of assault or abuse were reported by staff since 2017.

Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

THREATS WITH A machete, speeding cars veering towards a team of workers and rocks being thrown at vans were among the instances of abuse and assault reported by Irish Water staff over the past three years.

A log of flashpoints since 2017 shows that 21 instances of assault or abuse were reported by staff or contractors of the water utility, including ten last year.

In Galway city last year, a contractor crew were threatened with a machete by an irate homeowner, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

A note of the incident explained: “The male involved was standing on his property waving the 500mm machete at the contractor crew installing boundary boxes in the footpath outside his house.”

Two incidents were also recorded in Co Donegal involving attacks on people working for Irish Water.

In March, “one of [the] contractor’s traffic management operatives was assaulted by a member of the public. As of yet unsure if he needed medical treatment. The operative reported the incident to the gardaí.”

Another similar incident followed three months later in June in the same county.

A database of the complaints noted: “Contractor operative was attacked by a stranger. Operative received several blows to the head before the gardaí arrived and arrested the attacker.

“Operative was taken to hospital for examination and was advised to rest for the remainder of the day.”

‘Irish Water scum’

In another incident last year, three employees of Dublin City Council who were working on behalf of Irish Water were verbally abused by a gang of people.

A note of the incident said: “While one individual shouted obscenities and referred to … employees as ‘scumbags’, ‘kn***ers’, and ‘Irish Water scum’, another photographed their vehicles.”

The records also detail another assault on a worker in Tipperary in February along with “insinuating remarks”.

Two months later, also in Tipperary, a “contractor operative was confronted by an aggressive member of the public who threatened and verbally abused him.”

A log of the incident continued: “The operative consulted with the site caretaker who was able to identify the aggressor.”

In 2018, five assaults or threats were recorded including one sinister incident in the early hours of the morning in Dublin city.

“[The] incident took place at 2.00am when gang of 4/5 persons questioned crew about their work and looked for ID,” said the Irish Water records.

In Mayo, a staff member of Irish Water sat into her vehicle and was starting to reverse when she noticed a cardboard box had been placed against the rear wheel.

According to the records, she then got out and removed the box, and noticed abusive graffiti had been daubed on the vehicle.

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Children threw rocks

Six further incidents were reported in 2017 including one where a member of the public harassed a staff member on the phone and then turned up at Irish Water offices to continue verbally abusing him.

In another case in north Dublin that March, two cars approached a work site at high speed.

An account of the incident said: “Just as the vehicles passed by the works, [a] silver car swerved in towards an operative. Operatives had to jump onto the bank to avoid the car.”

The cars subsequently crashed into each other and clipped the back of an Irish Water cabin.

“The two cars stopped a short distance up the road. There were four people in the silver car and three people in the red car. They got out of the cars and starting roaring down towards the crew, who were within the caged site,” said the note.

The gang then got back into the two cars, only to return some time later to verbally abuse and threaten the work crew again.

In another incident in Limerick, a contractor drove to an emergency job as part of a leakage repair project in the county.

A description said: “Local children threw rocks at their van and damaged it.”

Asked about the log of attacks and threats on employees and contractors, a spokeswoman for Irish Water said: “We have no further comment to make on it.”

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About the author:

Ken Foxe  / Journalist lecturer and freelance reporter

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