Gardaí told former Debenhams workers protesting in Dublin City Centre on Tuesday morning to end their protest because it was deemed “a non-essential journey”.
The retail workers had gathered outside the Henry Street Store on Dublin’s northside to express their dissatisfaction with the redundancy packages issued recently.
Debenhams announced recently that its Irish stores would not reopen after the coronavirus pandemic, and the company was going into provisional liquidation.
The demonstration was due to begin at 11am but gardaí arrived at the scene shortly before then asking the protestors to cease their actions under the Covid-19 regulations.
The attending gardaí said while they supported the former workers’ right to protest, they could not do it while the pandemic restrictions were in place.
“You are entitled to protest any other time but not during the Covid-19 lockdown. This is a non-essential journey,” a garda told the protestors. “We request that you leave the area. If you fail to do that, it is an offence. The protest can happen any other time after Covid-19. We need you to leave the area right now.”
He added that “77 people died in Ireland yesterday” and that it was important for people to abide by the regulations to keep people safe.
Speaking before the arrival of gardaí, Marie Murphy, who worked at Debenhams for almost 20 years, said she was protesting she feels the way she was treated is “heartbreaking”.
“We’ve all lost our jobs, after all the loyal service over the years,” Ms Murphy said. “We kept this business going for them and we worked so hard. We’ve taken so many cuts over the years. We’re all devastated.”
“I’m a single mother and I have a massive mortgage. If I even think about the future at the moment, I panic. I’m just so worried.”
George Cardiff, who was a supervisor, said he just “couldn’t believe it” when he got the email saying the company was going into liquidation.
“I don’t think this was an overnight decision, this was a long time coming. We had been hearing rumours here and there that Henry Street store could be going. I think it [COVID-19]was an opportunity,” Mr Cardiff said.
“I’m safe, my home will be safe, but people with mortgages and all, they’ll be a different kettle of fish. People have the potential to lose their homes. It’s crazy.”