A CRIMINAL element with dissident republican leanings has been blamed for a threat to electricity meter readers in the area.
According to ‘MAIL’ sources this element was responsible for a threat to meter readers and a number of attacks on NIE vehicles over the summer period.
As a result of the incident around 90 homes have not been visited and customers have been advised they will have to submit their own meter readings to avoid receiving an estimated bill.
Matters came to a head late last month when a meter reader was apparently threatened by a group of men.
It follows a summer in which an NIE van and a car belonging to a meter reader were burnt out.
The company said the threat had not been an isolated incident and said staff had been attacked over the summer. Meter readers and other staff had been advised not to go into some areas until further notice following the incident.
The company said it is carrying out risk assessments before any of its staff are allowed to respond to requests from specific areas.
The company would not reveal the area affected but said: “We now have to risk assess every time we send a meter reader or a fault and emergency engineer into these areas.
“This causes time delays and under certain circumstances, may affect the service that we are able to provide to members of the local community in terms of fixing power cuts or reading meters.”
It added: “Last week a NIE meter reader was threatened. NIE reads meters for all electricity customers no matter which supplier issues your bill. An accurate meter read ensures and accurate bill.
“Due to this incident, we were unable to visit around 90 homes. We have advised customers they will need to submit their own meter reading to avoid an estimated bill from their electricity supplier.”
Local MP David Simpson has expressed his concern: “I am hearing those behind these threats would be of a dissident republican disposition.
“If that were to be the case it would be another very worrying example of this kind of violent and criminal intent.
“Staff should not have to endure the stress of this kind of threat and intimidation. It hurts the local community and prevents customers from having the kind of service that they deserve.
“Those behind these threats clearly have nothing whatsoever to offer. They should desist immediately.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Johnny McGibbon said, “These reports are concerning and I would condemn them outright. People have the right to work free from any form of threat or violence. Those behind the threats are motivated by self-interest and thuggishness; it’s as simple as that. It’s also important to recognise the majority of people are not engaging in this type of behaviour and are fed up with a small number of people giving their community a bad name.”