Up too 900 Quinn Insurance workers — including around 200 in Enniskillen — have been told they will lose their jobs in a devastating blow to the economy.
Administrators said the massive cuts — hitting more than a third of the company's 2,400-strong workforce — were needed to safeguard the business's future.
It turned out to be the ‘Black Friday’ the workers had feared would happen.
The redundancies will be offered on a voluntary basis and are expected to take place over a 12-month period across all of Quinn Insurance's centres.
“This is a difficult announcement to make and a considerably more difficult announcement for the workers of Quinn Insurance to hear. The scale of what we face is considerable,” joint administrators Paul McCann and Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton said.
“Unfortunately, this process is necessary in order to sustain and grow a viable insurance business.”
The announcement came as parent company the Quinn Group signalled its intention to sell the beleaguered insurance arm. Earlier this month, the High Court in Dublin appointed Mr McCann and Mr McAteer as permanent administrators to Quinn Insurance after Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield raised concerns about its solvency levels.
The administrators said certain loss-making aspects of the firm's UK division — where many product lines have been shut down — would also be axed.
The biggest job losses will be at Quinn Insurance's office in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, which will see over 300 redundancies. Around 226 jobs are to be cut in Cavan, with 179 redundancies in Enniskillen and 109 staff expected to be let go in Navan.
Further redundancies are also planned in the Derrylin claims division in Co Fermanagh, the |O'Connell Street branch in Dublin and English offices in Manchester and London.
Quinn Group founder Sean Quinn said he was devastated.
“I would like to sincerely express my appreciation of the huge effort that staff have made in making Quinn Insurance the great success that it has been and I greatly regret what has happened in recent weeks,” the tycoon said.
“I just hope that, in time, the company will return to the dynamic business it was up until March 30 and that employment levels will increase again in the future. Our thoughts are with all of the staff today.”
The Quinn Group's board had decided the best way of protecting the insurance arm and as many jobs as possible was to offer it for sale, Mr Quinn added.
The company will meet workers' representatives next week to commence the formal consultation process.
“While the exact number of employees that will be impacted over the next 12 months will depend on the actual business volumes achieved, it is very important to stress that our customers, both current and new, will have a direct impact on the employment levels within the business,” the administrators said.
“The more people that continue to support the company, the more positive the outcome will be for the workers.”
Meanwhile, Ireland's Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe pledged to do all in his power to help people laid off to find new jobs.
“I am acutely aware that the scale of these job losses carries a deeply human toll, as well as an economic price locally and nationally,” he said.
“I want to make it clear to the communities affected that the Government wants to see Quinn Insurance continue as a viable and sustainable business.”