Thomas Cook staff are staging a sit-in protest at the company's Grafton Street office in reaction to its decision to close its Irish operation more than a month ahead of schedule.

Ciaran Shortall, customer services manager at Thomas Cook in Grafton Street, said that staff were told last week that the Dublin office was to close on September 6.

However following a protest last week, he says, staff were told earlier today that the company had brought forward the closure of its two Dublin offices, and were being asked to leave the premises.

Mr Shortall says staff are refusing to leave, and will stay as long as they have to in order to resolve the matter.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook has confirmed that its two Dublin stores - on Grafton Street and North Earl Street - are to close today, with most of the 44 staff are to lose their jobs.

He also confirmed that the closure was originally scheduled to take place on September 6.

In a statement released this evening, Pete Constanti, CEO of Mainstream Travel - Thomas Cook UK & Ireland, accused the workers' union, the TSSA, of using 'dirty tactics' in the dispute.

The focus is now on the redundancy package offered. Staff say they have been offered three weeks for every year, but are looking for a much-improved Thomas Cook defended its offer by saying 'it was offering far more than it is legally required to do in respect of a redundancy package'.