Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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8. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the concerns of the retail industry will be taken into consideration (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17848/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am keenly aware of the critical role that the retail sector plays, as the largest private sector employer in Ireland, in contributing to the Irish economy.

The past year has been a difficult year for all businesses, including retailers. The impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have posed significant challenges for businesses and it is vital that businesses continue to develop their resilience in the face of these and future challenges.

I would like to thank retailers for their continued support of the national effort through this unprecedented public health crisis.

Decisions on lifting the current temporary restrictions are made by Government based on health advice. I know that adequate notice is important for the sector and I will provide as much notice as possible based on the timing and nature of the decision by Government.

S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 () clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at

The decision to move to full scale Level 5 was not taken lightly and all factors were considered.

Under Level 5, only essential retail outlets will remain open and all measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least April 5 2021. Further information can be found on

Level 5 does not restrict people from purchasing any product, it does however restrict people from physically going into non-essential stores. This is to stop people making unnecessary journeys, congregating and browsing for non-essential goods, to limit the spread of the virus.

Under the current temporary restrictions while click and collect of non-essential retail items is no longer permitted, click or phone and delivery can continue.

We are asking retailers to fully get behind the spirit of the regulations. In particular, we are asking retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail to ensure the strict separation of relevant areas.

An Garda Síochána are engaging with retailers and enforcing the regulations where necessary.

Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail grocery and distribution sector to continuously discuss and assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 - The Path Ahead which can be found on sets out the approach to the next phase, which is subject to ongoing review and taking into account the evolving epidemiological situation.

The Government is aware that some businesses are concerned that some landlords are continuing to insist on the payment of rents and leases as normal despite their premises being closed. At the same time, we must remember that landlords have their own financial obligations, like debt repayments, insurance, or security costs, that still need to be paid. One person’s rent might be another person’s income or pension.

The issue of commercial rents is primarily a contractual matter for the parties involved. The Government has urged landlords and tenants to talk to one another and come to some arrangement, as it is in everybody’s interest that terms are amicably agreed.

With this in mind, on 1st October 2020, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment published the Code of Conduct between landlords and tenants for commercial rents, which was developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and based on examples from other jurisdictions. The aim of the voluntary Code is to facilitate discussions between landlords and tenants impacted by COVID-19. It sets out a structured approach for engagement between both commercial landlords and tenants, based on their mutual interest in continuing to work together. The Code can be found on the Department’s website.

The Government has introduced a wide range of supports to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and they can be found on the Department’s website

The Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID is a new €60million grant scheme I announced recently and applications are now being taken by the Local Authorities. The closing date for this scheme is 21st April, 2021. It is a scheme designed to support those who are ineligible for CRSS and other sectoral schemes. The scheme will provide a grant of €4,000 to businesses to assist with their fixed costs eg rent, utilities, security etc. Your business may be eligible for this grant.

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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9. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will consider a compensation package for retailers of clothing and footwear that had forward purchased seasonal stock which now remains unsold due to Covid-19 restrictions and cannot be returned to the suppliers due to the nature of the purchase contracts; if zero interest loans through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland or other entities will be considered for the sector; if retailers depending on the sale of seasonal stock will be allowed to open under separate regulations for their trade; if the click and collect facility will be allowed; if such affected retailers will be exempted from the rule under the employment wage subsidy scheme relating to a monthly drop in income of 30% to allow the support to continue thereby assisting with cash flow and enabling existing levels of employment to continue; if the Covid restrictions support scheme will be increased for these retailers; if he will devise a plan of ongoing supports for this sector based on the suggestions and considering the challenges the sector faces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17857/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am keenly aware of the critical role that the retail sector plays, as the largest private sector employer in Ireland, in contributing to the Irish economy.

The past year has been a difficult year for all businesses, including retailers. The impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have posed significant challenges for businesses and it is vital that businesses continue to develop their resilience in the face of these and future challenges.

My colleague, Minister English, as chair of the Retail Forum, has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail grocery and distribution sector to discuss and assess matters impacting the sector as a result of COVID-19 and Brexit.

I would like to thank retailers for their continued support of the national effort through this unprecedented public health crisis.

Decisions on lifting the current temporary restrictions are made by Government based on health advice. I know that adequate notice is important for the sector and I will provide as much notice as possible based on the timing and nature of the decision by Government.

The Government has introduced a wide range of supports to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and they can be found on the Department’s website

My colleague the Minister for Finance is responsible for matters relating to the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme.

The Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID, which I launched, is a €60million grant scheme that was announced by Government recently and applications are now being taken by the Local Authorities. The closing date for this scheme is 21st April, 2021. It is a scheme designed to support those who are ineligible for CRSS and other sectoral schemes. The scheme will provide a grant of €4,000 to businesses to assist with their fixed costs eg rent, utilities, security etc.

Further details of this scheme are also available on

All Government COVID support schemes are being kept under review.

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