Rift opens in Government over 'farcical' vehicle ban
Published 26/08/2010 | 05:00
A ban by Environment Minister John Gormley on commercial vehicles for family journeys has sparked a coalition rift.
A prominent Fianna Fail backbencher branded the move "farcical and unenforcable". And other Fianna Fail deputies are likely to come under serious pressure from constituents to force a U-turn.
Clare Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley joined growing calls for the the blanket ban to be immediately rescinded.
Mr Dooley said he had formally written to Mr Gormley to review laws relating to the taxing of commercial vehicles. If necessary, he said, the declaration at the centre of the heated row had to be amended to clear up the confusion, which he described as "farcical".
In tandem with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), Mr Dooley wants the wording on the declaration -- which states that the vehicles would not be used for any family purposes -- to be changed to read instead that they would be used "mainly for business purposes".
He said farmers and tradesmen who signed a declaration that they would not use their commercial vehicles in any private capacity, and who subsequently did, would be breaking the law under the circular issued to all local authorities by the Department of the Environment on August 10.
"It seems ludicrous to suggest a small-business owner, farmer or tradesman would be unable to use a commercially taxed vehicle for minor personal use," he said.
"The facts of life for people in rural Ireland are such that a farmer may have to drop a child to school in their jeep on the way to the cattle mart, or a carpenter may have to visit the shop on the way home to collect groceries."
IFA president John Bryan said the circular, first revealed by the Irish Independent, had sent "a shock wave through rural Ireland".
Mr Bryan also said that the declaration should be changed to read that the commercial vehicles must be used "mainly for business purposes".
"This would be a very simple declaration that makes perfect common sense," he told the Irish Independent.
A spokesman for Mr Gormley said yesterday: "The system is designed to ensure that there is not widespread abuses of motor tax and it is kept under constant review."
The department has pointed out that the declaration has been in place for years.
However, it is now being more rigorously enforced since the departmental circular was issued earlier this month.
It also emerged yesterday that the minister was unaware that the circular had been sent out to all local authorities on August 10.
The department says it sent the circular after almost 9,000 private motorists reregistered their cars as commercial vehicles since 2008.
The increasing trend is being viewed as a means of escaping very high tax payments.
More than 2,300 have re-registered their cars so far this year, saving almost €900 in annual motor tax.