By Michelle McGlynn
A Dublin fruit company has been criticised after it emerged that it brought a large number of workers into the country to pick fruit.
Keelings brought seasonal fruit workers from Bulgaria to carry out a strawberry harvest at the north Dublin facility.
Following widespread criticism and backlash on social media, the company released a statement last night confirming that "a number of skilled horticulture staff have returned to Ireland to work with Keelings".
The company said that it would be impossible to bring fresh Irish strawberries to the market without the seasonal workers.
"It is essential that we have adequate staffing on the farm to pick crops quickly as they ripen, or we risk shortages in the market."
Keelings said it is following the HSE and Government guidelines including 14 days of restricted movement for any new arrivals in the country prior to starting work in Keelings.
"We again want to assure people that no horticulture worker coming from another region will be asked to work without a full 14 days restricted movement."
According to the statement, the company is also recruiting local workers to pick crops along with other roles in the business.
Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North West, Paul McAuliffe, has called on Keelings to issue a more detailed statement to respond to the concerns of the public.
"I am calling on the company to issue a far more detailed statement outlining the precise measures which have been taken to protect the workers and those in our community," said Deputy McAuliffe.
"I simply do not believe that this measure was necessary to save the fruit crops from spoiling.
"Given the historically high level of local unemployment, the desire by many people to be active and the national spirit to work together, it was not beyond the company’s ability to harvest their crop in another way."
He said that Keelings is a valuable local employer which supports many local communities but that they had shown poor judgement in this case.
A number of people on social media have called for a boycott of Keelings products and have said that they themselves will no longer purchase from them.
Meanwhile, one of the UK's largest producers of vegetables, G's Growers, has also flown fruit and vegetable pickers in from Romania.