Debenhams has treated Irish workers ‘very badly', says Taoiseach

Debenhams workers from across the Republic gathered at the protest outside the Belfast store on Royal Avenue. Picture by Mal McCann

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said Debenhams has treated its Irish workers “very badly and poorly” but that the Government cannot intervene in liquidation situations.

In March, the department store announced that it intended to liquidate all operations in the Republic of Ireland due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

Speaking in the Dail on Wednesday, Mr Martin said the company should “do the right thing” and pay the previously agreed level of redundancy.

Sinn Finn leader Mary Lou McDonald said Debenhams workers “were dumped unceremoniously and left high and dry”.

“They did not receive their lump sum and they never got monies owed to them due to their redundancies,” she said.

“Now is the time for immediate and effective action.

“What Debenhams workers are looking for is not unreasonable – it is necessary. They want the Government to intervene and deal with the liquidator – KPMG – who were appointed by the UK parent company.

“It is now urgent that the Government acts and it is also urgent that we legislate. I want you to move beyond the words you used yesterday that were lacklustre and non-committal.”

“I want you to give a firm commitment today that you will act immediately to support these workers and to legislate.”

Mr Martin said: “In terms of how Debenhams have treated their workers in Ireland, they have treated them very badly and very poorly.

“The State will do everything it can to support the workers who have been made redundant by the company in the manner that you have described.

“The programme for government sets out the need to review legislation that allows companies to lay workers off by the trading side of the company becoming insolvent and separating out the assets and then not being able to facilitate the payment of redundancies to workers.”

He added: “Government cannot arbitrarily intervene in liquidation situations as easily as you have suggested but, that said, Debenhams should so the right thing by their workers and should pay the agreed redundancies that have previously been agreed by them.

“We will do everything we possibly can to support the workers and give any resource they need to secure their rights and entitlements.”

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