THE country’s roads may be blockaded by lorries within a fortnight in protests similar to those paralysing Spain.
The Irish Road Hauliers Association (IRHA) will meet with the Government in the coming days to discuss ways of cutting fuel bills which are crippling haulage firms across the country.
The hauliers will put a number of suggestions to the Department of Transport, including the reduction of taxation on diesel purchased for commercial usage. IRHA will also demand the Government take immediate steps to eradicate the high level of illegal haulage which, it claims, accounts for up to a quarter of the trucks on Irish roads.
Jimmy Quinn, IRHA president, said the Government response to that illegal activity had been negligible, with only 15 convictions in the last two years. IRHA claims haulage customers are telling its members that if they try to pass on the extra fuel costs to them, they will simply refuse to use their services any more. It fears those customers are then moving their business, in some cases, to illegal hauliers who are willing to work for cheaper prices.
Jimmy Quinn said truckers have set June 27 as the deadline for some form of response from the Government. “Truckers are often working 364 days a years and, as they do not get paid when they don’t work, they are saying it has now got to the point where they cannot afford to keep working but they cannot afford to stop,” he said.
If by that date there is no resolution, he said hauliers have a number of options open to them but whichever they choose will be “radical”. That could mean main arterial routes across the country being blocked off and the transportation of goods being halted.
Meanwhile, the four organisations affiliated to the Federation of Irish Fishermen will meet with Fisheries Minster Brendan Smith and Junior Minister Tony Killeen in Athlone at midday today. Lorcán Ó Cinnéide from the Fish Producers Organisation said it expects the ministers to bring forward tangible measures to relieve the pressure caused by the spiralling oil prices and outline its agenda ahead of the gathering of European fisheries ministers on June 23.
“These are the same set of issues we already had on the table weeks ago. We are hoping they will have a concrete response to those issues at the meeting,” he said.
After the eight-man delegation meets the ministers, the federation will brief its members. While some members of the federation have joined blockades in Cork, the protests have not been officially sanctioned. It is not known what impact today’s meeting will have.
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