‘I’ve never seen diesel prices this high’ - Dublin traffic disrupted by trucker protest

‘We’re here to tell Government they’re going to put a lot of us out of business with these prices’

A protest by a large group of truckers and hauliers against rising fuel prices caused significant traffic disruption around Dublin on Wednesday.

The protest was organised by a new group going by the name Irish Truckers Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices, which is demanding that the Government lower the cost of fuel after prices increased to a record high in recent months.

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.

The group asked commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses, tractors and vans to drive to Leinster House on Wednesday in protest.

"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.

The trucks made their way from the main motorways into the city centre from early morning and about 80 trucks entered Merrion Square by 11am and began to dispersed after 4pm.

Sean Henry from Dunboyne in Co Meath, who has been a small haulier for more than 20 years, was among the first to arrive into the city centre.

“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 solid years but I’ve never seen the price of diesel this high,” he said.

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 extra for our loads,” he said.

“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 support 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, even if they don’t realise it yet. 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.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland said traffic disruption was "significant" with "major backups" on the M50, M1, M2 and M7.

The Dublin Port Tunnel southbound had to be closed at different intervals for the safety of drivers and passengers so that people were not stuck in it, a spokesman said.

IRHA president Eugene Drennan said it was organised by a "fringe group that popped up on WhatsApp" but that his organisation "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 has invited the IRHA to a meeting next week. Mr Drennan said the association would be “teasing out who is going to attend and what the agenda is” before agreeing to attend.

“We all want lower fuel prices but the protest organisers will lose public support with this reckless protest,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s transport spokesman 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 successive 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 “obviously 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.”

Verona Murphy, independent TD and former president of the IRHA said the Government introducing carbon tax "at a time when inflation is already continuing to climb is the straw that broke the camel's back."

There was “no alternative” to fuel for hauliers, particularly in rural Ireland, she said.

Speaking about the method of protest and the level of disruption, Ms Murphy said everybody was “entitled to peaceful protest but it is obvious people have been impositioned today.”

The reason the IRHA were not involved was “because of the disruption caused to customers and businesses at the busiest time of year for shopping and delivery.”

Fine Gael councillor for South Dublin County Council David McManus criticised the 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,” he said.