Donegal in for national protest over rising costs

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Donegal hauliers are expected to take part in a national protest next month that may block Dublin ports in response to hauliers’ concerns over their rising cost of doing business.

George Mills of Culdaff, a member of the association’s management committee said: “A special national meeting of the Irish Road Haulage Association held on Saturday in Dublin echoed the mandate that we had from all the regional branches that a protest was the only way forward as we were getting nowhere with negotiations.” Hauliers from Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo voted overwhelmingly for a national protest at a meeting held in Donegal Town last week, one of several meetings the association held around the country to gauge support.

The protest is planned for mid-February, before the government’s finance bill is finalised. Mr. Mills said reports of a specific time and date for the protest that appeared on social media sites were premature, citing “sensitive information for operational reasons”.

But the Culdaff man said the protest would be held in or around the week beginning Feb. 18th. “It could be before, and it could be after,” he said.

“There might still be time for negotiations to avert this,” Mr. Mills added.

If the protest goes ahead, he said, it would be “open-ended. Probably no less than 24 hours, and it could be a lot longer.”

He would not offer specific details. But he said that if ports were disrupted, “even for a short time, obviously, it is going to be detrimental.”

Mr. Mills said the association’s demands included a fuel rebate for tax compliant hauliers, as is in place in Belgium, France and Spain.

“Irish hauliers now avail of those rebates,” Mr. Mills said, saying that a similar rebate here would encourage hauliers to buy diesel in Ireland.

The association also wants to see Ireland use one colour of diesel to eliminate laundering. “We think it would help level the playing field for hauliers,” Mr. Mills said. He said the association had made some progress in talks with the minister for transport, but “seem to be coming up against a brick wall” with the department of finance.

He said “further down the line”, the association is also anxious to see rising diesel and road tax costs addressed

Mr. Mills said the association is asking hauliers in Ireland to provide at least one truck from their fleet for the protest. He estimated it would cost hauliers n300 to n1,000 per lorry to take part.

“If we achieve anything -- and we expect to stay until we achieve something -- it will benefit all hauliers,” he said.

Mr. Mills said the association welcomed support and solidarity from other campaigns, but were staging the protest for their specific demands.

“We would certainly ask for solidarity from the other campaign groups and I think we have that solidarity, but we’re not campaigning for them and we don’t pretend to be,” he said.