Debenhams protester faced potential arrest when picketing Tralee store

“We’ve been asking whether KPMG have the right to return during lockdown," she said
Debenhams protester faced potential arrest when picketing Tralee store

Orla Dowling, Louise Murphy, and Donna Higgins continue their official strike outside of the Debenhams shop at Patrick's Street in Cork. File picture; David Creedon / Anzenberger

A Debenhams protester said that the Government is "jeopardising our health" until it bans liquidators KPMG from packing or removing stock during lockdown.   

Amy Hourigan faced potential arrest picketing the Tralee store on Wednesday when a van arrived to remove stock just after 11am.

And she said that they are not backing down under the new Level 5 restrictions either. 

“We’ve been asking whether KPMG have the right to return during lockdown," she said. 

"Mick Barry asked Micheál Martin in the Dáíl this week but he gave a watered-down answer, saying the guards had operational discretion. 

"And if they’re allowed to come and take stock then we’re allowed to picket."

She said that Wednesday's "standoff" lasted for about one hour.

"It was very amicable but we stood our ground," she said.  

“The guards asked us if we were willing to move aside, we said no, so there was no choice but to abort the mission," Ms Hourigan said.

“None of us want to be here. We’ve been here for 195 days now. 

"They’re jeopardising our health by not giving us an assurance that KPMG is not allowed to come during lockdown.

“It falls with the Government. Micheál Martin should lead in these trying times."

Former Debenhams staff have been picketing 11 stores nationwide since the company went into liquidation earlier this year. They have been blocking the removal of stock from the stores until they are paid two weeks salary per year of service by the company as was previously agreed as a redundancy package. 

"They’re not honouring what they agreed to," Ms Hourigan said. "If they just pay the additional two weeks it will end the dispute."

Liquidators KPMG secured a High Court injunction last week which legally barred the workers from continuing to blockade stock inside the shop. 

However, on Wednesday, protesters continued to prevent KPMG from accessing stock when attempts were made to enter stores in Tralee, Newbridge, and Blackrock.

Twelve names were reportedly taken by gardaí in Newbridge for defiance of the injunction.

KPMG has now retracted its promise to warn workers before it arrives to pack or remove stock from the picketed stores.

Opposition TDs have now joined forces to call on Government to intervene in the bitter dispute, saying that the actions of Debenhams liquidators KPMG are unacceptable.

KPMG declined to comment.

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