Dublin Port blockade threat loomed over €18m haulier package

Ministers insist fuel-inflation support for sector not shaped by city shutdown fears

The Government believed hauliers would blockade Dublin Port in the days before it signed off on a special €18 million emergency support package for the sector.

Haulier groups told Ministers during talks that support was building for this and other radical measures among truckers under pressure due to the rising price of fuel in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Government sources and senior figures in the haulage industry confirmed that the prospect of shutting down the port – and of a wider blockade of Dublin on St Patrick’s Day – was aired during talks earlier this month.

One Coalition source said the view in the Government was that the truckers would imminently shut down the port – within 24-48 hours – at the start of last week.

Eight-week scheme

Late-night talks last week between the hauliers and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State with special responsibility for logistics Hildegarde Naughten saw a deal put in place which will pay haulage companies a subsidy of €100 per truck each week for the duration of the eight-week scheme.

Government sources insisted the payment was not agreed because of the threat the port would be blockaded. They said their sense from the talks was not that the leadership of the Irish Road Hauliers’ Association was likely to organise a blockade, but rather that individual members might launch one on their own initiative.

Association president Eugene Drennan confirmed a blockade of the port, and of Dublin city centre during the St Patrick's Day parade, had been mentioned as possibilities during talks with the Government.

Large-scale protests

He said his organisation had put five different proposals for support to Mr Ryan in the weeks beforehand, each of which was rejected, leading truckers to plan large-scale protests. “There’d have been no parade in Dublin today, for instance,” he said, speaking on St Patrick’s Day.

“I would have explicitly said that the relevant and aviation authorities should be notified that there may be major protests coming because we haven’t finished our business,” he said. “I would have pointed out there was sleeping accommodation [in trucks] . . . and we could stay two weeks. We’re not like the tractor people who come in now and again.”

A Government source insisted that while a “blockade would be far from ideal . . . the Government did a deal because it understood that a key sector was under very obvious pressure and needed assistance”, pointing to long-standing pressures on fuel prices which had been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

The Government ultimately came to the view that a financial package was needed for the sector due to the threat presented to the wider economy and other industries if hauliers could not or would not work.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times