Government may change company law after Clerys sale

Minster says no law can stop capitalism ‘operating in the way it does’

Clerys staff and supporters during a protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin last week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

Clerys staff and supporters during a protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin last week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins


Minister for Communications Alex White has said the Government would amend company law if there was a need and a way to do so in the wake of the controversy over the sale of the retailer Clerys last week.

However he argued that nobody should imagine a law could be introduced in the Dáil next week “to stop capitalism operating in the way it does”.

Mr White said there was no such law.

However he said the Government could provide greater protection to workers.

“We can do a lot of things t as we have shown over the years we are capable of doing and we will do it again here if we need to.”

The Minister described the treatment of workers at Clerys as “outrageous”and “appalling”, he told RTE's The Week in Politics programme.

He denied that legislation proposed by Sinn Féin some time ago would have addressed the situation of the Clerys liquidation.

On Friday week last, Clerys was sold by Boston-based Gordon Brothers to Natrium Ltd, which comprises Irish investment group D2 Private, and Cheyne Capital Management in the UK, with financing from Quadrant Real Estate Advisers.

OCS Operations Ltd, which ran the department store, was then placed into liquidation in dramatic fashion, resulting in the immediate closure of the department store.

More than 400 staff -- direct employees of Clery as well as those working for concession holders in the department store -- lost their jobs.

A number of protests organised by the trade union movement have taken place over recent days to highlight the plight of the former Clerys workers.

On Friday, Natrium said it intended to invest in the rejuvenation of the O’Connell St property in a move that would ultimately lead to the creation of a minimum of 1,700 jobs in Dublin city centre.

“The Clerys building can be transformed to create a major new mixed use destination in Dublin city centre and to create large numbers of sustainable jobs. There is strong demand from international retailers and other commercial users for unique and best in class spaces within the city centre that is not currently being met. Natrium looks forward to proceeding with its plans for the Clerys properties and the surrounding area in compliance with Dublin City Council planning policy,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement.

The trade union Siptu described the Natrium proposals as “wishy washy” and said there was little faith among the former staff that they would translate into secure employment.

The Minister for Business and employment Ged Nash last week wrote to Natrium Ltd seeking talks on their future plans.