The Government cannot allow retail workers to become "the collateral damage of this crisis", the Dáil heard, as TDs blasted Debenhams over its decision to make hundreds of its Irish employees redundant. Cork North Central TDs Thomas Gould and Mick Barry blasted Debenhams’’ treatment of its workers across the country, which include 958 directly employed and a further 300 in concessions.
Protests have taken place in Cork, Kerry and Dublin, while observing social distancing rules in two of the counties affected.
In his maiden speech in the Dáil, Mr Gould said during leader’’s questions that "fair and proper" redundancy packages had to be negotiated for the employees.
The Sinn Féin TD said: "If Debenhams get away with what they are doing now, they will set a precedent. And my worry is that I will be in this chamber speaking on behalf of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of more workers.
The workers of Debenhams "have been treated terribly", and such workers should not be "the collateral damage of this crisis", he said.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry slammed measures by gardaí in dealing with Debenhams’’ protesters in Dublin, claiming "they were threatened with arrest...escorted to Luas and bus stops" and other measures he said were an infringement on civil liberties.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said the Government should review the decision to exclude protest from the list of reasonable excuses to leave home during the pandemic.
ICCL’s Doireann Ansbro said: "The right to protest, to voice dissent and dissatisfaction without fear of breaking the law, is a core tenet of a democracy.
"Where a protest is small and complying with principles of physical distancing, as we saw in Cork and Dingle lately, there is a very good argument that they should be facilitated."
The ICCL said it is urging the Government to provide legal clarity on the right to protest under the regulations as soon as possible.