The budget is looming and we all fear what tax changes and welfare cuts will be coming our way as the Government continues to dance to the tune of our paymasters – the Troika.
However, one imaginative, yet plainly obvious measure the government should take is the removal of the dye from agricultural diesel oil.
This would remove the advantage the smugglers have in their illegal operation, who remove the green dye from agricultural diesel, which is sold at a lower price and resell it as road diesel for private cars.
Smugglers and criminals by their nature, will be ingenious and will find another way to leech off society and the taxpayers, not caring one jot about the damage they cause to the environment, the loss of revenue to the state, which directly affects schools, hospitals, welfare and even the budget of the Garda Síochana and Customs officers charged with bringing those same people to justice.
Of course you can't penalise farmers and others who legimately have cause to use marked diesel oil, but the mandarins in the civil service surely can develop a rebate or licence scheme were those entitled to use the marked diesel oil can claim for a refund or qualify for a discount on the price of a common diesel oil.
Farmers are well used to such schemes under CAP and REPS.
Yes, the scheme will cost money to establish, safeguard and operate, but how much money is being lost to the exchequer by motorists buying cheaper washed diesel, how much is being spent cleaning up after these criminal smugglers dump their toxic sludge around the countryside? How much money is being spent in undercover operations to detect and prosecute these smugglers? All the while criminals prosper.
Yes, one or two unscrupulous licencees or users entitled to a rebate will play the system and look to skim off a few extra euro for themselves. But I would prefer a farmer or haulier skim off a few quid than see smugglers continue to prosper.
Legitimate diesel retailers around the town have set up their own quality assurance scheme and those who can prove that their fuel is fully legal and that their tax affairs are in order fly a white flag at the entrance to their forecourts.
This was a measured practical response by the forecourt owners to face the challenge of illegal smugglers and fuel launderers which they established at their own expense to safeguard their livelihood.
They should be commended and supported for their initiative. The Government should respond. There are simple practical steps they can take to try and smash this trade. It will take co-operation north and south.
Put it simply, it will take political will.