Waterford Crystal is shutting the plant for up to three weeks over the next two months, according to sources close to the company.

Management is meeting staff to discuss situation at the company, which has been struggling over recent years.

The week-long shut downs will be staggered over two months.

The Waterford Crystal plant's tourist outlet will remain open.

The company's parent Waterford Wedgwood has confirmed it has proposed that the Government guarantees a €39m bank loan to the group.

In November the company announced it was cutting 490 jobs.

Any guarantee would secure the future of the remaining 550 jobs.

Last month in a statement to the Stock Exchange Waterford Wedgewood said a loan guarantee 'would make sound economic sense for the country'.

It said it was 'gratified' by the Government's engagement.

However, RTÉ News understands that the Cabinet may be restricted from underwriting a loan under EU rules on providing state aid to companies.