392. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding water charge campaigners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18225/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am aware of the commentary to which the Deputy refers concerning the deployment of Garda resources to police certain protests against the installation of water meters. I share the recently expressed views of the Garda representative bodies about the unfortunate necessity to have to divert Garda resources to police water meter protests when those resources could be used for other policing purposes.
The statutory functions of An Garda Síochána include the preservation of peace and public order, protecting life and property and vindicating the human rights of individuals. In the context of these functions it has been necessary for the Garda authorities to deploy Gardaí routinely at water meter installations and protests. The role of An Garda Síochána in such instances is to ensure, insofar as it is possible, that members of the public may go about their lawful business. Indeed, the presence of An Garda Síochána is also essential to ensure the safety of protesters in such circumstances.
An Garda Síochána always endeavours as best it can to facilitate peaceful protests and demonstrations. However, it is always unfortunate when a small number of individuals resort to means other than peaceful ones to express their views, to intimidate others or to engage in protest. We have, unfortunately, seen examples of this in respect of some of the protest actions against water charges and the installation of water meters.
Clearly, the behaviour of a small number of individuals whose motivation is other than peaceful is taking up Garda resources which could be better deployed for the benefit of society elsewhere. In that context An Garda Síochána has the support of the Government in carrying out their duties in what can be a difficult policing situation.