Company law being examined over Clerys closure, Dáil told

Tánaiste says workers have to be looked after first after criticism from SF’s Peadar Toibin

The Government was undertaking "a very detailed examination of company law" following the closure of the Clerys store in Dublin, Tánaiste Joan Burton said.

“First of all, we have to look after the workers,’’ she added.

Ms Burton said Minister of State Ged Nash had produced an important and significant report setting out in clinical detail the sequence of the history of events that happened.

It also set out how and where company law operated in Ireland at the moment, she added.

She said she had met a number of the Clerys workers, many of whom were there for 40 years and more. Workers should get those redundancy and insolvency entitlements, which were their right in law, as soon as possible.

The Tánaiste was replying to Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin, who said duplicity was at the heart of "the Clerys debacle''.

Almost a month had passed since staff and concession holders were turfed out on to the street by liquidators.

"All they have received from the Labour Party so far is a two-faced response,'' he added.

Tactical insolvency

He said while Mr Nash’s report provided a textbook analysis of a tactical insolvency delivered with merciless precision, astoundingly the Minister of State had said there was nothing to see there.

“If the State is on the hook for millions of euro with regard to the redundancies of workers who have been treated in a despicable manner, how in God’s name can anybody accept there are no deficiencies in the legislative framework in this State?’’ Mr Toibin asked.

“The truth is that the legislation in this State, under the stewardship of the Government, incentivises ruthless employers to go down the route of separating out companies so that they can use tactical insolvency to insulate themselves from their responsibilities to this State and to their workers.’’

Lack of experience alleged

Ms Burton replied that if Mr Toibin was suggesting legislation should be used in some way to up-end the entitlement of workers, she would suggest he was advocating such a tactic out of a lack of experience of dealing with issues that arose in the Clerys case.

Mr Toibin replied: “Nobody on the planet has made that suggestion.’’

Ms Burton accused Mr Toibin of “throwing a lot of stuff around like snuff at a wake’’.

Mr Toibin said “multiple companies’’ in this country had separated out their firms in an effort to insulate their investments from the responsibilities they had to their staff.

“The fact is that both the State and the workers are getting stuffed over and over again,’’ he added.

“We have complete inertia from the Labour Party with regard to its response.’’

It was clear, he said, there was a flaw in the existing framework.