There is significant traffic disruption in parts of Dublin city centre as convoys of lorries were driven into the city in a protest by truckers and hauliers over fuel costs.
Streets around Leinster House were blocked off by gardaí in advance of the protest.
Gardaí say that delays on the major approach roads have eased but there is still heavy traffic on the M50 southbound from Junction 7 at Palmerstown to Junction 9 at Red Cow.
A group of truckers and hauliers – describing itself the Irish Truckers Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices – is calling for “lower fuel costs at the pump and at home”, and said it wants “lower costs and lower taxes, rebates are no good.”
It called for a “peaceful protest” and advised those taking part to keep hard shoulders and bus lanes free.
The Irish Road Haulage Association has distanced itself from the group and the protest.
IRHA President Eugene Drennan said it was difficult to engage with the group as it is “faceless”.
He said the group had taken IRHA statements “out of context”.
“It is very hard to know who or what they are. While their goals might be similar to what we are negotiating towards, we don’t know exactly what they want,” he said.
In a posting on Facebook, the Irish Truckers Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices group listed meeting points on the M1, M2, M3, M4, M7, and M11 motorways and said HGV and LGV owner operators intend to travel towards the Dáil.
“All roads lead to Kildare Street or as far as we can get. When we stop don’t move,” the post said.
It asked participants to “have some consideration” for emergency vehicles.
“We don’t want any trouble or vigilante groups to act up. Stay at home if that’s your plans please,” it said.
It said in a post it would have no spokespeople available to the press.
It also raised the possibility of an additional protest in the week before Christmas.
Mr Drennan said the IRHA had “big grievances” with the Government and Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan, but members decided they “did not want to cause any grief to the public before Christmas”.
He said members reserved their right to protest in the New Year.
Drivers who participated in the protest expressed concern over fuel prices, fuel rebate levels, driver shortages, taxes and other operational costs.
Leonard Clavin of Clavin Transport Services said the cost of operations of his eight-truck fleet has exceeded turnover, due to increased diesel prices.
“It is very hard to pass those cost increases on to our customers, they have businesses that they need to keep open as well,” he said.
Mr Clavin said Government should pay attention to supply shortages in England due to a lack of drivers.
He said truckers and hauliers are “desperate”.
“We’re a mobile workforce, we can move to England in the morning and run perfectly viable businesses and there’ll be no one left in Ireland to do the deliveries,” he added.
Jason Fogarty said his fellow drivers were protesting against “the exorbitant price of diesel”.
“It is getting too much to run our trucks. It doesn’t run on air. We’re getting crippled on tax, diesel, haulage. Everything has gone up but the wages,” he said.
Mr Fogarty said every industry in the country relied on trucks, and inflation will follow if the price of diesel is not reduced. He called for an increase in the rebate for fuel.
“That perfectly good truck is making no money today, sitting there to see if I can get more money for my industry. If not, I’m going to be out of this job in a couple of years. It’s not worth it anymore,” he added.
Independent TD for Limerick County Richard O’Donoghue said the truckers were trying to “lower inflation and keep their trucks on the road so they can feed everyone in Ireland”.
The Rural Independent Group TD said it was a “time of crisis”.
“No matter where you live, whatever produce you get has been brought to the shops by truckers,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin Leader said hauliers had kept the show on the road during the pandemic and the Government needed to show up for them with an improved diesel rebate scheme.
Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that people are overwhelmed by rising energy prices and the Government is sitting on its hands.
She called for the carbon tax increase to be scrapped and for VAT to be waived on energy bills for three months to give families a break.
In response, the Taoiseach said the rebounding of the international economy had contributed to the pressure on energy prices.
Micheál Martin said the carbon tax increase plays a very small part in the global phenomenon of rising energy prices and while deferring increases would be popular it would not be good for the planet.
He said the focus is try to get household bills down in the short-term with measures like an increased Fuel Allowance.
Independent TD Verona Murphy has said it is terrible that anyone is being impositioned as a result of the demonstration and described its timing as “unfortunate”.
She was responding to reports on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that a 92-year-old woman missed a medical appointment that she had been waiting two years for, because of the protest.
Deputy Murphy, a former president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, which has distanced itself from the group and the protest, said “it’s absolutely not” the right strategy.
“It’s a terrible thing that anybody be impositioned, and I think that’s primarily why the Irish Road Haulage Association in their experience over the years, would not have taken this action at this time of the year, either for the public at large or for their customers.
“This is the Christmas busy commercial period, it’s an unfortunate decision but I do understand the frustration,” Ms Murphy said.
It is reported the woman who missed her medical appointment has had it rescheduled for next week.
By RTE https://www.rte.ie/author/1001779-cillian-sherlock/.