A SECOND protest by a group of truckers and hauliers which is taking place today in Dublin has been described as being a "body-blow" to retailers in Dublin city centre in the lead-up to Christmas.
Today's protest follows on from a similar demonstration which brought severe disruptions to the capital in November. Both protests have been organised through a Facebook page called The Irish Truckers and Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices.
Posts in the group's page encouraged those partaking in the protest today to block access to Dublin Port, using prominent locations such as the M1, N2, N3, N4, N7 and N11.
"When you stop don't move for the day," the post continued.
"No goods in or out!" another post says.
The main bulk of traffic seems to have cleared as HGV's make their way into the city centre. Were expecting intermittent delays as other convoys join the network heading into the city. For now the M50 is moving quite well.
— M50 Dublin (@M50Dublin) December 13, 2021
The group also encouraged farmers to partake in the demonstration.
Managing Director of Retail Excellence, Ireland's largest representative body for the retail sector, has called on the truckers to call off the protest as it would represent a "body-blow" to retailers in the city at an important time of year for sales.
"There is no doubt that every industry is under fire from various quarters at present, and we have some sympathy for the plight of the hauliers, but now that sympathy is rapidly running out," he said.
"At this time of the year, retailers take in approximately €200m every day, and it beggars belief that one group would act in this irresponsible way to restrict access to the capital city, and in doing so, imperil livelihoods at a time when every trading day counts."
He said that footfall in the city centre is down by 30% on 2019 levels, and that this action by truckers and hauliers will "drive another nail into the coffin of many city-centre retailers who are in desperation mode now."
Similarly, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) Association has asked for the truckers not to block access to any PCR test centre.
"Elect a spokesperson to speak for your protest to the media," the association said.
"People are inherently and rightly suspicious of those who hide anonymously behind social media platforms."
Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME said:
“We encourage hauliers to price their haulage rates correctly. Ethical customers know that fuel prices have risen and will accept a reasonable increase in rates.
"Otherwise, hauliers should serve them notice. The market won’t get cheaper rates elsewhere.
"If haulage operators don’t have a fuel price or labour cost escalator in their haulage rates, they need to include them."
There is a possibility of some traffic disruption during the peak hours on Monday morning due to a planned hauliers protest. The public is asked to plan for any necessary journeys on Monday and to use public transport, walking and cycling where possible. pic.twitter.com/3AgTByvp6M
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) December 12, 2021
Consultant Obstetrician and RCSI Associate Professor at the National Maternity Hospital also asked the protestors not to converge on Merrion Square as last month's protest caused severe disruptions to those seeking to access the hospital.
"If the truckers feel they have to converge on Dublin again tomorrow, could they please stay away from Merrion Square and the National Maternity Hospital. They caused untold disruption to patients 3 weeks ago disrupting patients, babies and numerous appointments," he said on Twitter.
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris TD criticised the way in which the truckers are carrying out their demonstrations.
"My colleagues Minister (Eamon) Ryan and Minister Hildegarde Naughton had a very good meeting with the Irish Road Haulage Association on Friday, where the IRHA did table a proposal in relation to an expanded rebate scheme," he said on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics.
"Both ministers have undertaken to very seriously consider that. That’s the way to do business though."
"What is not the way to do business is for splinter groups to blockade effectively our capital city tomorrow and cause other hard-pressed taxpayers very significant difficulty in going about their business and indeed people in accessing our health services and the likes."
It is expected there will be significant traffic disruption due to the protests in the city centre this morning.
The protest is expected to last 24 hours, with an appropriate Garda plan being put in place to deal with it.