Hauliers warned the Government they would blockade Dublin Port and stop the St Patrick’s Day Parade going ahead two days before a €100-a-week grant for the sector was announced, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for Road Haulage and Logistics Hildegarde Naughton announced details of a temporary grant scheme of €100 per week for every heavy goods vehicle (HGV) for the next eight weeks last Friday.
The scheme, which aims to ease pressures facing hauliers due to increased fuel prices, was announced two days after the ministers met with the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) on March 9.
The Cabinet was told this week that during the meeting on Wednesday last week, the IRHA representatives said that hauliers would be required to withdraw services immediately if further cost relief was not available.
Furthermore, support was building among their members for immediate and sustained protest action, including a blockade at Dublin Port, they said.
The meeting also heard suggestions that such action would be imminent and possibly within 48 hours.
IRHA president Eugene Drennan confirmed the details of the meeting but said the warnings of possible disruption had been indicated to Government in the days and weeks before direct engagement with the ministers.
“We would have been coming to protest if we didn’t get dealt with and we hadn’t been dealt with,” Mr Drennan said yesterday. “I don’t think the parade would [have been] going ahead in Dublin.
“If ever we come to town, it will not be small. We can stay in the trucks, we have the cookers, fridges, food and freezers. We wouldn’t be driving home when the protest was over. It was indicated that should we have to come to town, it wouldn’t be light.”
Mr Drennan said the Ukraine war had exacerbated cost issues for hauliers.
A Government source insisted last night that the warning of possible disruption “wasn’t the reason the Government did a deal”.
“We have been in talks with them since late last year about a support package.
"The €100 payment was a recognition of the genuine financial pressure the sector was under and its importance in keeping the economy moving,” the source said. The scheme is likely to cost €18m.
The Cabinet was told on Tuesday that despite concerns that the scheme could give rise to claims for comparable treatment from other groups Mr Ryan said the sector was considered one of national strategic importance.
Ministers were told that any major interruptions would have significant and immediate implications for supply chains.
The Cabinet was also told that the attorney general’s advice suggested that while the grant scheme could be introduced it would need to be put on a legislative footing.