James Ward, PA
A protest by truckers and hauliers against soaring fuel prices which is expected to cause havoc in Dublin city centre is “not the way to do business”, Simon Harris has said.
The Minister for Further Education has hit out at groups, including the Irish Truckers and Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices, over plans for a day-long “blockade” of the city on Monday.
Retailers have condemned the plans, warning it will be the “difference between survival and closure” for many stores already badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A similar protest two weeks ago caused heavy disruption on motorways and in the city centre, and Monday’s demonstration is expected to be even larger.
Mr Harris said the Government had engaged with the Irish Road Haulage Association, which opposes the protests, around measures to tackle fuel costs.
He said: “My colleagues Minister (Eamon) Ryan and Minister Hildegarde Naughton had a very good meeting with the Irish Road Haulage Association on Friday, where the IRHA did table a proposal in relation to an expanded rebate scheme.
“Both ministers have undertaken to very seriously consider that. That’s the way to do business though.
“What is not the way to do business is for splinter groups to blockade effectively our capital city tomorrow and cause other hard-pressed taxpayers very significant difficulty in going about their business and indeed people in accessing our health services and the likes.”
“I know that’s a view shared by the IRHA and others. Decent proposals have been tabled by the IRHA and they will be given very serious consideration and very quick consideration,” he said in an appearance on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics.
Retail Excellence said the demonstrations would threaten jobs, and said “sympathy is rapidly running out” for the truckers and hauliers.
Its managing director, Duncan Graham, said: “Footfall in Dublin city centre is down by 30 per cent on 2019 levels, as people continue to steer clear of the capital and instead shop online or in suburban shopping centres.
“This action by truckers and hauliers is a body-blow which will drive another nail into the coffin of many city centre retailers who are in desperation mode now. In any normal year, the Christmas period is critically important for retailers.
“This year – after months of enforced closures, decreased footfall, the increased cost of trade, severe weather disruption and having to contend with the same fuel prices that hauliers are protesting against – it will be the difference between survival and closure.”
Independent TD Verona Murphy has called on the Government to cut direct taxes on fuel to alleviate the situation.
Ms Murphy said: “The direct taxes applied to fuel here are in the region of 52 per cent price per litre.
“So where you see €1.65 for the price of a litre of fuel, over 80 cents of that is going to the Government in direct taxes.
“We’re an island, we’re unique in that regard. As members of the EU now we’re on the periphery.
“If we’re going to remain competitive on an EU stage and a world stage, we’re going to have to look at our direct taxes and reduce them in relation to the cost of fuel.”