A protest by a large group of truckers and hauliers against rising fuel prices caused meaningful traffic disruption around Dublin on Wednesday .
The trucks made their way from the main motorways into the city centre from early morning. By 11.30am, the Garda said the inbound arterial roads have been cleared but traffic was nevertheless heavy on parts of the M50 from Junction 7 Palmerstown to Junction 9 at the Red Cow. There are also reports of heavy traffic in the city centre due to the protest. Some 80 trucks entered Merrion Square by 11am.
A new group, under the name Irish Truckers Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices, is demanding that the Government lower the cost of fuel after prices have increased to a record high this year.
The group asked commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses, tractors and vans to excursion to Leinster House on Wednesday in protest.
The convoys met at various locations off the M1, M2, M3, M4, M7 and M11 to depart for Dublin early in the morning.
Sean Henry from Dunboyne in Co Meath, who has been a small haulier for more than twenty years, was among the first to arrive into the city centre just after 9am.
“We’re here to let the Government know they’re going to put a lot of us out of business with these prices. I’m doing this 20 substantial years but I’ve never seen the price of diesel this high,” he told the Irish Times.
In the last few months, “every time hauliers go to the pumps it just seems dearer and dearer but we’re not getting paid any additional for our loads,” he said.
Average fuel prices for petrol and diesel are at a record high, according to data collected by the AA.
The average price for unleaded petrol is now 172.6 cent per litre, while diesel is now 163.3 cent per litre, the highest since the AA started recording filling prices in 1991.
Petrol prices are up 27 per cent on this time last year, while diesel prices have increased by 28 per cent.
“My truck would take 600 to fill but recently it’s started going up to 620, then 650 and at the end of the week when you’ve put all your diesel into your lorry, your earnings are well down at that stage,” Mr Henry said.
There were a lot of truckers and hauliers at the protest “at their own expense with trucks that don’t run lightly,” he said, but the group had “received a lot of sustain on the way in”.
The increase in fuel prices was “torture on every trucker and haulier,” Pat Russell, a small haulier from Clondalkin said.
“We’re here today to try to save this country. The price of fuel will cost everybody money, already if they don’t realise it however. Their shopping prices will go up – the price of milk, bread, potatoes, you name it – everything that comes in a truck will be impacted,” Mr Russell said.
The group organising the protest on social media called for “peaceful protest” only.
“We don’t want any trouble or vigilante groups to act up. Stay at home if that’s your plan please,” a post on its Facebook page said.
It asked participants to “have some consideration” for emergency vehicles.
The Irish Road Hauliers Association (IRHA) said it was not affiliated with the new group and did not have anything to do with organising the protest.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Eugene Drennan, president of the IRHA said it was organised by a “border group that popped up on WhatsApp” but that the IRHA “absolutely identifies with the problems and wishes them the best”.
“This is a global spike affecting everyone. Costs have spiralled everywhere and we have been putting this to the Government and seeking a meeting for a while now,” Mr Drennan said.
The Department of Transport invited the IRHA to a meeting next week but the group would be “teasing out who is going to attend and what the agenda is” before agreeing to attend, he said.
Meanwhile, a Fine Gael councillor for South Dublin County Council has criticised Wednesday’s protest as “misguided and pointless” .
“If the organisers want to take their message to the Government, their convoy should meet on Merrion Square outside Government buildings, not on the main motorways causing mayhem for people trying to get to work,” Cllr David McManus said.
Sinn Féin spokesman on transport Darren O’Rourke called on the Government to work with the group to “find solutions urgently”.
“These workers are vital to our construction, retail and supply chain sectors, but have been ignored by subsequent governments. They are small individual and family businesses that keep the shelves of our shops stocked and transport goods to every corner of the island,” he said.
While international fuel prices were “clearly having an impact on prices at the pumps,” the Government was “exacerbating the issue by continuing to heap carbon tax on fuel in the absence of alternatives” .
“We all want lower fuel prices but the protest organisers will lose public sustain with this reckless protest,” he said.
Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith said he did not know the group organising the protest which was separate from the IRHA. “Their actions today have ground Dublin to a stop and those who have to commute or get to test centres have been impacted.”
“Everyone is feeling the pinch as fuel costs are impacting households and businesses all over the country.
Mr Smith said he looked forward to engaging with the IRHA on the matter.
“On the substantive matter of Haulage, I look forward to engaging with the Irish Road Hauliers Association on any issues they may have in the coming weeks.”
Gardaí said they were aware of the protest and had a plan in place to monitor it.
Commuters intending to access or travel by the Dublin vicinity should plan consequently for traffic congestion, a statement said.
An Garda Síochána would provide update traffic information on social media channels as and when required.
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