The High Court has appointed provisional liquidators to a well-known tour operator that provided group tours to places of pilgrimage.
Joe Walsh Pilgrimtours had brought groups of Irish Catholics on package tours to Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Rome in Italy and Medjugorje in Bosnia for many years.
The High Court heard its business was devastated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the company, which employs 30 people, has had to halt all its planned tours.
The tours were initially postponed but, as the pandemic progressed, it was not possible to rearrange them. The company concluded it could no longer stay in business and passed a resolution that it be wound up.
In 2020 the company recorded losses of €7.5 million. The bulk of its 3,000 creditors are people who had booked and paid for tours. They are owed some €5 million.
The court heard on Wednesday that it is envisaged that those customers, many of whom are older people, will get their money back by making applications to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR).
Other creditors include Revenue, the company's landlord, other companies within the Joe Walsh travel group and various trade creditors.
The court heard the joint provisional liquidators will help ensure an orderly winding up.
Some staff will be kept on to make contact with and answer queries from affected customers.
Mr Justice Senan Allen appointed Eamonn Richardson and Andrew O'Leary of KPMG as joint provisional liquidators to Joe Walsh Pilgrimtours Ltd after being satisfied the business is insolvent and unable to pay its debts.
Brian Conroy, instructed by solicitor Brian O'Neill, for the company, said the company was founded by well-known travel agent Joe Walsh in 1982 and had been very successful for many years.
In recent years the business had been run by the late Mr Walsh’s family, David, Margaret and Barry Walsh.
Counsel said the company had hoped to obtain additional investment to allow it to survive. but that had not proved possible.
The decision to wind up was also prompted by the fact that it would not be able to renew the annual licence it requires to operate from CAR. To get such a licence it would need to have a bond from a third-party insurance provider in place.
The bond would assist the firm in the event the company was unable to discharge money owed to customers if it was unable to honour its obligations to them. Despite its best efforts, the company could not get such a bond, the court heard.
Given the current conditions caused by the pandemic, it was not thought that a buyer for the business could be found, counsel added.
The matter was adjourned to June.