Superquinn, the Irish supermarket chain, is to close the crèches in 19 stores because of soaring insurance costs.

Chief executive Simon Burke said that a review of the service had also revealed declining use of the facilities and increased training and day-to-day expenses.

Superquinn's founder Senator Feargal Quinn, who sold the chain last year to Irish business consortium Select Retail Holdings, introduced in-store child-minding in 1986. It was part of his campaign to provide a consumer-friendly service and other chains, including Tesco, followed suit. All have since closed their crèches.

Shopworkers' union Mandate is involved in talks with Superquinn about the future of 60 child-minding staff. Burke promised new initiatives designed to help customers with children, including activities for children on busy shopping days.