THE Ennis man at the head of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has voiced concerns over the mental and physical health of up to 200 drivers from this country who were stranded this week in Britain. Chaos ensued around several ports in the south of England when France temporarily shut its borders over fears of a new and highly infections train of Covid-19 in parts of the UK.
Eugene Drennan President of the IRHA said that while it was difficult to estimate the number of drivers stranded, up to 200 could have been caught up in long queues around some of the busiest ports with mainland Europe.
“If this was a war situation or a major catastrophe, you’d have the Red Cross and the United Nations (UN) coming out to help,” he said. “I’d like to know who is going to check on these drivers and ask about the physical and mental health and what their situation is like at home. The English are very good for coming out with water and sandwiches, but what are these drivers to do in terms of basic facilities?”
Mr Drennan was also highly critical of the actions of the French who announced a 48-hour ban, but have yet to clarify their longer-term plan. “They used a very blunt instrument and they never considered Ireland. There’s been a lot of political speak about Ireland not being left behind, but this is what has happened.”
Mr Drennan, who is managing director of Spa Transport, insisted that Irish hauliers should be allowed into France.
“Irish-registered trucks should be allowed cross the Channel into France. We still have a lower Covid case rate, relative to the rest of Europe. We have fought very hard to keep our drivers safe and when they’re in Britain, they’re using it as a landbridge only. They are a low risk to the French and that should be recognised. France has simply closed the door and we need clarity on what they intend to do about this travel ban.”
On Tuesday, the European Commission issued a non-binding recommendation to all member states saying that all EU and UK citizens travelling home for Christmas – as well as essential workers and freight – should be able to move freely across the bloc.
It is anticipated that mandatory testing of drivers at ports may be part of a deal to reopen trade routes.