The liquidators of Debenhams Ireland, KPMG, have confirmed that they have already cleared out all stock from three of the 11 stores around the country.

They have also partially removed stock from a number of others, despite ongoing pickets by former employees. 

However, KPMG insists that the removal of stock took place before last Wednesday's appointment of Labour Court Chairman Kevin Foley to mediate in a bid to resolve the seven-month dispute.

Since Debenhams Ireland went into liquidation on 9th April, former employees have been picketing the stores to prevent KPMG from removing stock to progress the liquidation, arguing that the proceeds should be ring-fenced to fund enhanced redundancy payments for the workers provided for in a 2016 collective agreement.

They have also queried why they are unable to secure any money from Debenhams online operation previously listed as being based in Dublin.

Last Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced that Labour Court Chairman Kevin Foley would act as mediator in a bid to resolve the long-running dispute.

On Saturday night, Mr Foley issued a statement confirming that the liquidators had undertaken not to attempt to remove stock from the premises for a seven-day period from last Friday 27th November until this coming Friday 4th December to allow a window for talks.

He said the trade unions had accepted that undertaking, and in light of it, they were exploring the possibility of scaling back - and in some stores temporarily ceasing - picketing over those seven days.

"It is fully expected by all parties who are involved in the process currently under way that no other party will take it upon themselves to attempt to remove any stock from any store during the seven-day period," Mr Foley explicitly stated.

However, earlier today, there were claims on social media that stock was being packed inside the former Debenhams store in Henry Street in Dublin. 

Responding to queries from RTÉ, KPMG confirmed that prior to the engagement of the mediator, the joint liquidators Andrew O'Leary and Kieran Wallace had fully removed stock from three stores: Mahon Point in Cork, Newbridge in Kildare and Tallaght in Dublin.

KPMG said those stores were now "fully empty", and the liquidators have also partially removed stock from a number of other stores.

"This all occurred prior to the agreement with the mediator that there would be no further removal of stock from midnight on Friday 27 November to midnight on Friday 4 December," the KPMG statement confirmed. 

They said the liquidators had confirmed to Mr Foley that no packaging materials would be delivered or attempts made to remove stock from the stores, adding that "neither of these activities have happened since providing that undertaking".

The liquidators also confirmed that 953 people lost their jobs when Debenhams Ireland became insolvent.

Of those, 852 were entitled to redundancy, of whom 823 have had their claims processed by the Department of Social Protection. 

KPMG estimated the cost of statutory redundancy for eligible staff at €10.75m, while funding the additional two weeks per year of service outlined in a 2016 collective agreement would cost an additional €11m.

The liquidators have previously stated that there is no legal basis for them to fund enhanced redundancy payments, and that the liquidation may run out of money before Christmas, leaving all creditors with nothing. 

They have previously offered staff a lump sum payment of €1m over and above statutory entitlements to be divided between eligible employees, but withdrew that offer when it was dismissed as inadequate by shop stewards.

Mandate, which represents the Debenhams workers, said that they have no further comment at this stage.

It is understood that the union was only advised this afternoon about the claim that three stores had been emptied of stock.

Sources said this was something they would need to consider further in consultation with the national Shop Stewards Group.