TDs query Irish Water’s access to DPP ahead of legal actions

Anti-meter protesters confront Irish Water contractors in Raheny  Colin Keegan

Anti-meter protesters confront Irish Water contractors in Raheny
Colin Keegan

by Justine McCarthy

Irish Water has held discussions with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) about how the utility’s relationship with water meter installers can be “best presented” in criminal prosecutions.

TDs who oppose water charges claim the discussions indicate an “unusual level of access to the DPP” and say that they intend to raise the matter in the Dail.

The discussions came to light in a letter obtained during court proceedings relating to an anti-metering protest in Dun Laoghaire in May 2015.

The letter, dated July 20, 2015, was written by Kevin McSherry, Irish Water’s metering development manager, and was addressed to Superintendent Kevin Dolan in Dun Laoghaire garda station. It described the discussions with the DPP’s office as being “at a high level”.

McSherry said it had been agreed that a corporate witness statement would be provided for each prosecution from a senior Irish Water manager, “which will highlight, inter alia, the relationship between Irish Water and its contractors and the fact that Irish Water is entitled, pursuant to its corporate memorandum and articles, to act through contractors”.

Joan Collins, an Independents 4 Change TD who was acquitted last February of charges arising from an anti-water protest, said: “I would think it’s highly irregular that a company would have direct contact with the DPP, and I’ll be asking questions in the Dail.

“The DPP is supposed to be independent. She cannot even give reasons for her prosecution decisions. To have a company have private discussions with her or her officials is sinister.”

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the meeting. “[It] was simply for the purposes of clarifying a legal procedural query we had,” she said. “An Garda Siochana had requested clarification on how Irish Water would demonstrate our legal relationship with our metering contractor, as this evidence would be required for any prosecution against a third party for interference or obstruction of the contractor.

“We met with the DPP to clarify the appropriate way to provide evidence of this legal relationship and this was deemed to be through a witness statement.”

Irish Water’s head of capital delivery subsequently provided a witness statement for prosecutions being taken by the DPP.

Paul Murphy, an Anti-Austerity Alliance TD, described the letter as “fairly significant”.

“Irish Water is not the gardai. It is a semi-state company. The letter raises question marks over the DPP and what was happening in those discussions. There is at least a problem of perception,” he said.

Murphy is due to go on trial next year on charges relating to a protest in Jobstown during which Joan Burton, the then tanaiste, was trapped in her car.

The DPP’s office did not reply to questions.

Source: The Sunday Times, Ireland, Sept 25, 2016
              Fliuch, Sept 25, 2016