Staff at Debenhams in Cork who have lost their jobs say they feel abandoned by the UK owners of the Irish operation and say a nationwide protest is planned for tomorrow.

The company employs almost 1500 people at its 11 Irish stores, with a further 500 people employed by in-store concession outlets.

Last week, the High Court appointed provisional liquidators to the Irish operation after it was told by the company that it is insolvent and couldn't pay its debts.

The company said it had no choice but to apply to be wound down after the withdrawal of support by Debenhams Retail Limited in the UK following the appointment of an Administrator to its own business there.

In a statement issued on its behalf, the company said that "it fully recognised the difficult impact the decision will have on its employees, concession partners and other stakeholders, but regrettably there is no viable alternative".
In Cork today, Madeline Whelan who joined the company as a teenager, and who has worked there for almost 30 years, says she feels very let down.

She is one of the 300 permanent staff employed at the Patrick Street branch of Debenhams which was taken over from Roches Stores in 2006.

Another 120 people are employed there by in-store concession outlets.

She says they received a general email last Friday night from the CEO of Debenhams UK confirming that the company could "no longer fund the Irish business", and have not been contracted directly since then.

"There are some people with 46/47 years service in Patrick Street alone, and people with Debenham's for 15 years, people with new mortgages," she said.

Valerie Conlon, who is the store's Mandate Shop Stewart, says that while there had been talk of administration she never thought it would come to this.

"We are on the Covid-19 payment for 12 weeks and we will have to sign on then after that - they've put no package in place," she explained.

Vivienne O'Regan said she is devastated by the news and really hurt.

"I feel some of that hurt is turning to anger, we just want to be treated fairly," was her response.

The workers plan to protest outside six Debenhams stores nationwide tomorrow at 11am to highlight their concerns, while also calling for a fairer redundancy package.

The stores include Cork's Patrick Street & Mahon Point, along with Henry Street, Blackrock, Blanchardstown and Tallaght in Dublin.