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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Cllr. John Lyons/Twitter The four protesters speak to the media following their release.
they're out

Four 'Dublin Says No' anti-water charges protesters released from prison

The President of the High Court ordered their release due to problems with the committal warrant ordering their detention.

Updated at 3.53pm

THE FOUR ANTI-WATER charge protesters jailed last month for breach of a court injunction have been freed this afternoon.

It follows a ruling from the President of the High Court Nicholas Kearns.

Photos of the four newly-freed protesters - Bernie Hughes, Damien O’Neill, Paul Moore and Derek Byrne – were posted on social media today, after their immediate release was ordered.

The group – some of whom have been engaged in campaigns of direct action against metering contractors since early last year – were jailed on 19 February, having previously been given a number of warnings by Justice Paul Gilligan.

At the heart of the case was an order made by Gilligan on 2 October last.

It ordered that they must stay at least 20 metres from employees of GMC Sierra while the contractors were carrying out their meter installation work.

Videos presented to the court at last month’s hearing showed protesters moving safety barriers, standing inside the work perimeters or, in one case, filling a hole dug by installers.

They were freed today due problems to with a committal warrant ordering their detention. A spokesperson for the Courts Service said a full written judgement would be released on Thursday.

Speaking to 4FM’s Niall Boylan following his release, protester Derek Byrne said he believed the committal warrant had been “full of mistakes”.

“The detention was unlawful,” he said.

Asked whether he and his supporters would continue with their campaign of direct action against the meter installations he said “we’ve begun something, why would we give up now”.

We went to prison because we wouldn’t take an undertaking so why would we stop now.

Byrne – along with fellow protester Paul Moore – was on hunger strike for a time, following his transfer to Wheatfield from Mountjoy.

Asked about conditions, he said they had been treated well by prison guards and prisoners alike.

Anti Water Charges Campaigns Leah Farrell / Photocall Ireland Freed protester Derek Byrne (file). Leah Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The Donaghmede resident – who released a series of statements via Facebook while in prison – declined to give any more details about the hunger strike, or why it was called off.

Never having been in prison before, it was “a very hard thing to take when you’re thrown into a small room and the door slammed shut behind you,” he said.

He said he had always been willing to go to prison for his convictions.

Sentence suspended

A fifth protester, Michael Batty, who was also sentenced to 28 days in prison, has had his jail term suspended for six months this afternoon.

The 64-year-old was not in court for sentencing last month as he spends part of the year in Lanzarote because of health problems.

In court today, he undertook not to interfere with meter installation, and Justice Gilligan said he would suspend the sentence.

People Before Profit councillor John Lyons, who was in court for Justice Kearns’ ruling, said the four freed protesters were keen to get home and see their families – and that no demonstrations were being planned for this evening.

Groups supporting the jailed activists have been holding regular Saturday vigils outside Mountjoy in recent weeks.

“In light of what happened today, next week could be something of a celebration,” Lyons said.

water protest. Pictured Anti Austerity Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Last Saturday's protest outside Mountjoy. Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

First posted at 2.45pm.

Read: “We have no intention of leaving” – Anti-water charge protesters occupying Cork City Hall

Read: Row between Irish Water and meter installers could be settled in court, says Tánaiste

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