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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Appointment of Ministers and Ministers of State

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 994 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] It is an area in which work will commence in terms of examining the overall company law situation with a view to reducing the capacity of companies to deny workers their redundancy entitlements and their rights generally when a company is being wound up. That it happened in the context of Covid-19 was particularly regrettable. The sense is that Covid-19 was used as a basis for closing the company and leaving 1,500 people out of work.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I welcome, as I am sure the Debenhams workers will welcome, the Taoiseach's words of sympathy and his condemnation of how Debenhams has treated them, but the test is what the Government will do about it. We need to act urgently to do everything we can to make sure that Debenhams does not get away with manipulating the law as it stands to siphon off these assets. Its failure to consult workers and the fact that the State may have to pay out the statutory redundancy gives us certain leverage under that legislation for the insolvency fund to go after the assets of Debenhams, and we should do that. It tried to siphon off those assets but was prevented because of the heroic protests of the workers.

There are echoes of the Dunnes Stores-South Africa strike battle on those picket lines. I encourage the Taoiseach to go down and meet the women because they are an absolute inspiration and they are not going away. They are going to fight for justice. I appeal to the Taoiseach and the Government to do absolutely everything to ensure justice for the workers. The assets are in those shops. Debenhams must not be allowed to take them out. The assets should be liquidated to the benefit of the workers to ensure a just settlement for them.

There is a lot at stake because this is not just about Debenhams workers. We are facing potentially tens of thousands of similar redundancies, so this is a test. Are we going to stand with workers faced with this kind of treatment and the possibility of mass redundancies in this country to prevent that sort of shoddy treatment and to protect workers who have given decades of loyal service, as these workers have?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Again, I am not going to raise expectations that one cannot deliver on in terms of interfering in the liquidation process or making interventions that could not be legally sustained. For the existing workforce, the liquidation process and how we can leverage the remaining assets to secure the rights of workers is a challenging and complex issue, as the Deputy knows deep down. I accept his bona fides in respect of what he wishes to happen on behalf of the workers and understand where he is coming from in that regard.

There are a few dimensions to this. How can we support in the most practical way the workers who have been laid off? How can we prevent the exploitation of company law to prevent such exploitation of workers into the future? How can we build in greater protections for workers, in case of such eventualities, so that they will have greater claims and access to clawbacks following closures engineered in this way in future. That is what I would like to examine with my colleagues in government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes Leaders' Questions. We have run a bit over time but it is our first day. Perhaps from now on we might stick to the allocated time.

  I understand that the Taoiseach has an announcement to make for the information of the House in respect of the appointment of Ministers and Ministers of State.

Appointment of Ministers and Ministers of State

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I beg leave to announce, for the information of the House that after I had informed the President that Dáil Éireann had approved my nomination of Deputies to be members of the Government, the President on 27 June 2020 appointed them accordingly; that, on the same date, I nominated Deputy Leo Varadkar to be the Tánaiste and assigned the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to him; that, on the same date, I assigned the other Departments of State to the other members of Government as follows:

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to Deputy Eamon Ryan;

Department of Finance to Deputy Paschal Donohoe;

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to Deputy Michael McGrath;

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to Deputy Catherine Martin;

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to Deputy Darragh O'Brien;

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence to Deputy Simon Coveney;

Department of Education and Skills to Deputy Norma Foley;

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Rural and Community Development to Deputy Heather Humphreys;

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to Deputy Barry Cowen;

Department of Children and Youth Affairs to Deputy Roderic O'Gorman;

Department of Justice and Equality to Deputy Helen McEntee; and

Department of Health to Deputy Stephen Donnelly;

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