‘All these lads are losing money just to come up here and make a point’ - truckers make way out of Dublin after fuel price protest

Protesters have started leaving the city centre, with more disruption expected as they make their way out of Dublin across the M50

Conor Feehan, Eoghan Moloney and Senan Molony

There is expected to be more traffic disruption this afternoon as truckers have started leaving the city centre after convoys of vehicles descended on the capital this morning to protest against rising fuel prices.

There was major traffic disruption on approaches to Dublin and in the city centre this morning.

The Irish Truckers and Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices (ITHAAFP) organised for drivers to set off early this morning on the main approaches to the city, and dozens of trucks, buses, vans and tractors are now parked at Merrion Square, near Leinster House.

The Luas remained out of service between St Stephen’s Green and Dominick Street as of mid-morning.

In response to queries, the group said: “Stay as long as possible, we are all in it together.”

Truck driver Jason Fogarty was parked at Merrion Square, which Gardai had turned into a holding area for the rigs, with the surrounding streets off limits to traffic.

“We left the M4 and M6 this morning and split in Kinnegad at approximately 6.45am. I'm very very proud of the lads the showed up. All these lads are losing money just to come up here and make a point, and people are saying it's pointless burning diesel to be here, but unless we get our point across and take a stance we're going to have no industry and we’ll have no trucks in this country,” he said.

“Our country is run on the back of trucks. On the back of lads like me that leave the house on a Sunday night and don't go home until Friday to make sure you have cheap products on your tables.”

“Unless we got a rebate or something comes down, we're not going to be able to drive,” he added, saying it is estimated fuel has gone up 25pc in the last year.

“I mean, compared to last year when I was putting probably €1,000 into the truck. It's now €1,100 to €1,150 a week and that's providing I get a week out of my full tank,” he added.

Members had gathered at service stations on the outskirts of the city overnight, and took to the road at around 7am travelling towards the city centre along the M1, M2, M3, M4, M7 and M11.

“This is for the people of Ireland. We are all suffering, some more than others,” a statement from the group said.

“We want lower costs and lower taxes, rebates are no good. We want the government to address the nation on this cause,” it said.

“This is for the people of Ireland, for our future and for our kids. If we don't get a change a lot of small operators will be out of business sooner than you think.”

“If we don't get an answer we will be back in bigger numbers for a week before Christmas,” it added.

As the group set out this morning, it posted on social media: “Right lads and ladies, nearly 7am let’s start getting together and making a move, 2 lanes on way in and nice and handy (slow) get as far in as u can get and park them.”

While groups of truck drivers assembled in the city centre, none seemed to know when the protest might end.

Gardaí indicated that it might be after lunch, possibly 2pm, but they also admitted that it was a difficult situation to assess.

Because there is no central spokesperson for the group a finishing time seemed fluid.

There had been a call on the group’s Facebook page for drivers to assemble at Kildare Street, but drivers instead stayed close to where their trucks were parked, unclear of what to do next.

In an update around 11.30, Gardaí said: “Inbound arterial roads have now been cleared and there are no longer significant delays on the M1, M7, M4. There is still heavy traffic on the M50 Southbound from Junction 7 at Palmerstown to Junction 9 at Red Cow.”

There was also disruption in the city centre, with no Luas service between St Stephen’s Green and Dominick Street.

Posting on social media earlier, the group said: “Keep on heading in lads we need your support!”

The group said it wants a peaceful protest and no trouble.

It said it has no spokespeople, but are “the people of Ireland” who need to be addressed as a whole”.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has dissociated itself from the group known as the ITHAAFP, which is organising the rolling protest against spiralling fuel prices this morning.

In a statement issued to HGVIreland.com the IRHA said: “The Irish Road Haulage Association would like to make it clear that it has no affiliation or partnership with this group known as Irish Truckers & Haulage Association against fuel prices.”

“This is a fringe group and has nothing to do with the Irish Road Haulage Association,” said an IRHA spokeswoman.

She told Independent.ie that it does not condone the actions of the group but feels the frustrations of its members.

“Our members decided not to protest at this time of year because it is coming up to Christmas and because of COVID,” she said.

A garda spokesman said An Garda Síochána is aware of a potential protest in the Dublin Region today which may impact on early morning commuter traffic. “Commuters intending to access or travel through the Dublin Region should plan accordingly.”

“An Garda Síochána will have an appropriate and proportionate plan in place to monitor the protest.”

“An Garda Síochána will provide update traffic information on our social media channels as and when required,” a spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, Independent Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue drove the cab of a lorry into the grounds of Leinster House on Tuesday morning before declaring it was a protest to highlight the “Government’s failure to act on the fuel prices”.

“Tomorrow is a truck protest. I am asking everyone in a truck, bus, car, bicycle, everything, to come out and protest tomorrow about the fuel prices. The Government are taking everything, and all we want is to have something back,” Mr O’Donoghue said in a video on social media.

“We have seen last week that out of every €100 of petrol, our Government takes €57.

“We want them to give something back, to reduce the VAT or customs and excise, so that everyone can pay a little.

“Our children need to get to school on private buses. Our food needs to get to our table from the trucks around this country. Please come out and protest tomorrow and join us over their failure to reduce the VAT and customs in fuel,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking in the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that European rules prevent Ireland from imposing a VAT holiday on fuel.

He said the leve of 13.5pc was among the lowest in the EU and, under EU Commission rules, it could not drop below 12pc.

Ms McDonald had called for a 0pc rate of VAT for three months, but Mr Martin said it was not credible to put forward proposals that couldn’t be done.

He said any temporary non-application of VAT would result in it having to return to the standard rate thereafter of 23pc, even if approved by the Commission.

He said the Government had doubled the diesel rebate scheme to 7.5c per litre once the price reached €1.43 per litre.

But he has said carbon taxes would not be reduced “because it is not the right thing for the planet”.

Ms McDonald said truckers and hauliers were protesting outside the gates of the Dáil because they are being absolutely crucified.

“These are small and family businesses already put to the pin of their collar with rip-off insurance costs, extortionate utility bills, the domestic cost of living and now skyrocketing increases in fuel.”

She pointed out that hauliers were essential workers who played a huge part in “keeping the show on the road” during the pandemic.

The carbon tax hike needs to be scrapped, she said, branding it the wrong move at the wrong time.

“The truth is that households face a real emergency in heating and lighting their homes and running their vehicles and the weather is getting colder.

“Bear in mind that workers have been told now to work from home. So people will have their heating and lighting on earlier, and for longer – and their bills consequently will go up even further,” she added.

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