Coalition divisions over the recently announced increases in road tolls is expected to come to a head at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
Last week, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) announced it was increasing motorway tolls across the State to “maximum levels”.
The decision was condemned by Opposition parties and was also criticised by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. However, the Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, in interviews over the weekend, indicated he had accepted the increases and argued that they could be as little as 10c per toll in some instances.
It comes as Sinn Féin has tabled a Private Member’s motion in the Dáil for this week calling for the increases to be scrapped. They are due to kick in from January 2023. The motion will be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.
The timing of the motion has put pressure on the Cabinet to give a formal Government response to the decision and to indicate what action, if any, it will take to address the cost implications of the increase for motorists.
There is a strong possibility that the motion will force the Government’s hand to either subsidise some of the increases or to ask TII to reverse its decision.
Sinn Féin’s spokesman on transport Darren O’Rourke said on Sunday: “The price hikes will hit people’s pockets at a time when their finances are already under unprecedented pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis. These price hikes must not go ahead.
“Eamon Ryan has made it absolutely clear that he has no interest in bringing toll operators to heel and is abdicating his responsibilities. He needs to take his head out of the clouds and he must bring all possible pressure to bear on toll road operators and to scrap price hikes,” he said.
Mr O’Rourke argued that the private operators of the tolls were making millions of euro in profit. He said the operator of the M3 toll had reported €11 million in profit from the previous year.
A senior Government source said on Sunday night that there had been no meaningful discussion to date on the issue. Mr Ryan was away last week at Cop27 in Egypt and travelled to Paris later in the week for the formal signing of the contract for the Celtic Energy interconnector. The Taoiseach was also in Paris on Thursday and Friday.
“The Sinn Féin Private Member’s motion will likely flush out the overall view [of Government] in the next couple of days,” said the source.
Last week, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that a “very steep increase” was being planned, and Mr Martin also said the timing was bad, given that households and motorists were already facing a raft of price increases.