A large-scale trucker protest scheduled for Dublin city centre next week is like “one industry trying to hold another to ransom”, retail representatives have said.
The Irish Truckers and Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices, a newly organised group, said it is holding a 24-hour protest in the city on Monday in response to petrol and diesel prices reaching a record high.
Gardaí have put in place a policing plan ahead of the protest which will see large numbers of heavy vehicles arriving on the capital and shutting down roads.
The protest organisers said there will be"massive convoys" from Cork, Galway, Donegal, Monaghan and Wexford, with "thousands of vehicles joining the protest from all corners of the country".
In a post on Facebook, the group set up meeting points at service stations, retail parks, and restaurants along the main motorways into the capital, with most convoys being en route to Dublin by 7am.
A similar protest organised by the group last month caused major traffic disruption as truckers engaged in a rolling blockade along the M50.
The group is not affiliated with the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) and has yet to put a spokesperson forward.
It is understood the group have not engaged with the Garda ahead of Monday’s event. Protests in Ireland do not require official permission but the Garda encourages organisers to liaise with it in order to minimise disruption and ensure safety.
Garda headquarters said it is aware of the planned protest, which is mainly being organised on social media, and that it will have “an appropriate and proportionate plan in place to police this protest”.
This follows complaints that last month’s protest caused people to miss medical appointments and that truckers were blowing their horns outside Holles Street Maternity Hospital.
It is understood a Garda Public Order Unit will also be on standby and operating in the background during the protest, along with a garda tactical advisor. Sources said this is in case anti-vaccination protesters attempt to hijack the demonstration.
There have been instances of violence at several anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protests over the course of the pandemic.
The group has said it wants an even bigger turnout than last month to protest fuel prices which have reached a record high. Participants have been told to keep out of the fast lane, keep a minimum speed on the motorway of 50kph and to keep hard shoulders free for emergency vehicles.
The group is calling on members of the public, the people of rural Ireland, taxi drivers and bus operators to join in. Farmers are also planning to join the protest, starting with an overnight demonstration on Sunday, according to the association’s Facebook page.
However, retail groups said while they support people’s right to protest, the only people these protests affect are retailers and shoppers. Duncan Graham, from Retail Excellence, said the last protest resulted in city centre retail trade being reduced by about a third.
“It just feels like hammer blow after hammer blow. On Black Friday week it was the truckers, this week was the storm, next week is the hauliers again, and that’s on top of the obvious impact of Covid,” he said.
“Nobody really suffers here other than hard-pressed traders in the city centre. What’s to be gained by it? In effect, all it does is target another industry.”
Richard Guiney, of Dublin Town, which represents traders in the city centre, said many businesses are already concerned about their future viability.
He said vacancy rates on Grafton Street and Henry Street are now around 14 per cent, which is higher than what was experienced during the depths of the recession.
“We’re not having a good Christmas. Trade is down, business are really suffering and this is the time of year when they would do roughly a third of their annual turnover,” he said.
“We’re concerned about the future of many businesses so something that is going to be deliberately disruptive, on top of the bad weather we had this week, would make me question the tactics being used.”
He added: “Undermining other businesses and their jobs and livelihoods is not really an approach that is constructive.”
In a statement on their Facebook page, the protest organisers said:“We want VAT and duty slashed and we also want the carbon taxes slashed on the cost of fuel at the pump. We won’t be leaving until we get answers.”
The drivers will arrive at various times at the designated meeting points on Monday morning, before proceeding down the motorway to Dublin city.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien urged the truckers to engage with the Government, telling them: "You don't need to block the roads."
Mr O’Brien said people have a right to protest, but said blocking traffic is “probably not the best way to do things”.
“I don’t think causing disruption within our cities or within our towns and blocking traffic really serves any other purpose than really getting the backs up of other citizens and making it difficult for them to go about their daily lives,” he added.
“People will have valid points of discussion, they may have valid criticisms, but use the recognised mechanisms that are in place there as well.