The residents of Moneymore , Laurence’s Park/Drive and Lia Breagha, have chosen negotiation rather than confrontation when it comes to the installation of water meters at their homes.
Since trouble flared in the area in December they have met with contractors Coffey Northumberland and An Garda Siochana and today they issued a statement which we publish in full.
The residents of Moneymore Electoral area in Drogheda have reached an agreement with Coffey Northumberland Ltd, the installers of water meters in County Louth on behalf of Irish Water. The agreement which was reached with the support of An Garda Siochana in Drogheda is believed to be the only one in existence in the country at this time.
The agreement was achieved after two months of consultations between all parties involved. Finalised on last Monday 26th January, the agreement which would had been impossible to achieve only eight weeks ago has now become a reality. Respect was the key. Respect for An Garda Siochana, respect for Coffey Ltd employees and respect for residents.
On December 1st 2014 the invasion of Moneymore estate by Coffey Northumberland Ltd workers for the purpose of installing water meters on behalf of Irish Water made headlines across the country.
No advance notice was received by the 245 homes and no consent was sought. The installers’ well planned arrival into the estate was at 6.15 am and they began cutting work immediately. Disturbed by flashing lights and the drilling noise, residents awoke and rushed from their homes.
The workers were confronted and they were forced to stop digging holes and setting up barriers. An Garda Siochana were summoned by Coffey ltd and it is believed that up to 18 officers arrived into Moneymore. There were chaotic scenes, angry words and frayed tempers as members of An Garda Siochana appeared by residents to ignore their rights and attempted to support Coffey employees without question or reservation.
The scenes witnessed on the streets of the estate were unprecedented. There was violence, there was criminal damage and there was a breakdown in law and order. Scenes that no resident or An Garda Siochana would ever want to see repeated in the area again.
However, the residents continue to hold the belief that it was the actions of Coffey Ltd on that morning with a disastrous plan which was responsible for the incidents which followed.
The residents consistently state that at 6.15 am on that morning they were the only people entitled to be in Moneymore estate. Within a week of December 1st, a resident of the area Anita Collins had organised a public meeting in Moneymore to address the unfair media coverage for the estate and to formulate a plan going forward to repair the fractured relationship that now existed with An Garda Siochana.
It was decided that a survey of the entire Moneymore Electoral area would take place before Christmas to attempt to discover the level of support that existed for water charges and for the installation of water meters. All homes that stated they did not want a water meter installed were supplied with a LEGAL NOTICE to display at their home warning agents of Irish Water against installing a water meter.
All homes that stated they did not want a water meter installed were given an opportunity to register for a TEXT ALERT scheme that would warn residents of the immediate arrival of installers to the area. All homes were issued with information on the health risks and security dangers of the meter presently being installed.
All homes were issued with information and advice on how to protest peacefully and successfully, if or when the installers Coffey Northumberland Ltd were to return. The message to residents was clear and consistent.
NO VIOLENCE - NO CONSENT - NO CONTRACT - NO METER.
The individuals (residents) conducting the survey of almost 600 homes emphasised at every door the agreed principles.
(A) The homes that requested meters MUST be allowed to have them supplied and fitted.
(B) No employee or agent of Irish Water was to be PREVENTED or INTIMIDATED from doing his job.
(C) The homes that did not want a meter installed MUST have their request RESPECTED.
Following the completion of the survey, contact with An Garda Siochana took place. An Garda Siochana took responsibility to facilitate a meeting between the Moneymore residents, Irish Water, Coffey Northumberland Ltd and Garda representatives. There was to be no formal agenda for this meeting however all participating parties were fully aware that the mistakes of 1st December must be addressed and a peaceful agreed path forward must be found.
A meeting was arranged and was facilitated in Drogheda Garda Station on Tuesday 13th January. Present were four members of An Garda Siochana, two representatives of Coffey Northumberland Ltd and residents from three of the four estates that make up Moneymore Electoral area. Unfortunately the representative from Irish Water did not attend.
The meeting lasted for two hours. It was an open, honest and sometimes heated exchange of views but appeared constructive and successful. An important line of communication had been created.
A public meeting of all residents had been arranged for Thursday 15th January in Moneymore Boxing Club when details of the survey would be made public, a report on the meeting in Drogheda Garda Station would be given and an open debate on how the residents wanted to proceed. This meeting returned three conditions from the residents to Coffey Ltd (agents of Irish Water).
(A) Residents demanded to receive the statutory fourteen days advance notice.
(B) Coffey Ltd respect the LEGAL NOTICE displayed on residents homes.
(C) Survey Co-ordinater would provide Coffey Ltd with details of all homes in the area that requested water meter installation.
On Friday last 23rd January, the supervisor/planner for Coffey Ltd in County Louth contacted the Moneymore Electoral Area Survey Co-ordinater. A verbal agreement was reached that would satisfy the residents demands. A stated priority on all sides was the safety of all residents, Coffey Ltd employees and members of An Garda Siochana. Details of the agreement were to be finalised on Monday 27th.
Due to a misunderstanding, mistake or the lack of communication; our agreement and the two months of hard work which had brought it about almost collapsed before it had begun.
Vehicles and workers from Coffey Ltd arrived at 10.30 am into Moneymore and Hawthorn Drive estates to commence water meter installations.
Residents, informed over the weekend that a deal had been done, could not believe or understand that yet again they were to be treated with contempt. As on the morning of 1st December, residents prevented Coffey Ltd employees from working and members of An Garda Siochana were called to intervene.
For over an hour the situation remained tense but thankfully there was no repeat of violence. Residents put in place the peaceful protest advice that they had received and they stood, sat or parked their vehicles over the water shores at their homes.
The arrival to the area of the Coffey Ltd supervisor/planner and Moneymore Electoral area Survey Co-ordinater led to the Friday agreement being publicly witnessed by residents, Coffey employees and members of An Garda Siochana.
Meter installation by Coffey Ltd was carried out on the homes requesting meters without interference and An Garda Siochana could proceed to other pressing duties. Coffee Ltd returned to the area early the following morning without incident to collect equipment and clean up.
With the agreement now in place and but yet in its infancy, residents have still decided to maintain a physical presence at the entrances to Moneymore and Hawthorn estates. The dedicated individuals gather each morning at 6.30 am in all weathers.
Initially this was done to prevent water meter installers from gaining access to the area however its role now is to prevent any further mistakes, misunderstandings or lack of communication that could damage an agreement that has removed fear and uncertainty from our area.
We sincerely appreciate the time, the patience and the effort that An Garda Siochana in Drogheda have invested in this project. Our message to all the people of Ireland feeling intimidated into having a meter installed without their consent is to follow the path set by the residents of Moneymore Electoral Area in Drogheda, County Louth.
NO VIOLENCE - NO CONSENT - NO CONTRACT - NO METER.
Spokesperson: Anita Collins