herald

Sunday 24 February 2019

You hypocrite, Leo ... this M50 U-turn will cost you dear

THE plan to collect an extra €50m a year in M50 tolls is outrageous, unjust and a further hammer blow to Dublin motorists.

How can Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, in all sincerity, contemplate such a mean and contemptible act?

The move is nothing short of a declaration of war on the capital's motorists.

To make the matter worse when Varadkar was Opposition spokesperson on transport, in 2008, he condemned a proposed increase in M50 fees.

The PR-savvy politician labelled that plan "yet another stealth tax from the Government and its agencies".



mandarins

Yet, as soon as he got his own hands on the levers of power, in a breathtaking display of cynicism, hypocrisy and breach of faith, he has now endorsed this very same stealth tax that he vehemently opposed.

Like many voters, I believed that Varadkar was cut from a different cloth. In previous utterances he has been refreshingly candid and open, innovative and honest, a man of his word.

But, in light of

this latest decision, I guess we were wrong. Proposals to impose an extra €50m in tolls sadly confirms that Leo is a chip off the same old political block.

I suspect that's because, instead of following his own mind, he's taking the advice of civil service mandarins.

Minister, you must realise, in your heart, that to impose further on Dublin motorists is a mean and petty act.

The €50m you proposed to raise is laughable, in the overall context of our debt -- a drop in the ocean compared with an €85bn bailout, for example.

The taxpayers have already paid for the M50 multiple times over.

Has Varadkar considered the burden that €50m a year would place on cash-strapped users of the motorway? It amounts to an average €100 a month toll bill for each and every commuter.

Motorists are already well taxed. Where does the huge tax take on fuel go? Is that not to pay for our roads?

Of course the toll plan will have an immediate effect in the minister's own backyard. Areas like Blanchardstown, his base, will be flooded with extra traffic. Cars and HGVs will clog narrow streets -- the very problem the M50 was designed to solve.

The non-driver will also be hit. Have no doubt but that businesses will pass on extra haulage charges to their customers. Or simply go bust due to higher costs.

Like it or not, the M50 is the main artery, commercial and otherwise of Dublin. Shut it off, or strangle it with tolls, and the city shuts down.

The fact is that the M50 tolls plan is a Dublin tax. Levied on the people of Dublin by a Dublin minister who has plans to one day be a Dublin Taoiseach.

It's an attack on Dublin.

Well, I'm sure I'm speaking for Dubliners when I say enough is enough. If Mr Varadkar values his career, and, more importantly, his home city, he'll bin this crazy plan immediately.

If he drives ahead with it I have two words of warning -- Richie Ryan.

Mr Varadkar and his Government colleagues would do well to remember the dire electoral consequences of his Fine Gael predecessor's 1970s tax-happy moves.

Tread carefully, Leo.

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