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Vita Cortex sit-in grandad defies cancer

A VETERAN factory worker is defying a cancer diagnosis to support a marathon sit-in redundancy protest now approaching its 100th day.

Henry O'Reilly -- who worked at Cork firm Vita Cortex for more than 40 years -- was last month diagnosed with liver, spleen and pancreatic cancer.

He is now responding well to treatment including an aggressive chemotherapy regime.

His diagnosis only came after he contracted what was suspected to have been pneumonia while supporting the sit-in protest at the freezing Cork plant since December 16 last.

While Henry cannot physically participate in the sit-in protest anymore, he insists on supporting his former colleagues by plant visits -- and by keeping in touch with the protest on a daily basis, sometimes from his hospital bed.

"I think I am quite lucky -- the treatment is going well and the success rate is somewhere between 50pc and 90pc. So it is quite good," he said.

Last night, Cork TD Ciaran Lynch (Lab) hailed Henry as "a true hero" -- and said his commitment to his fellow workers underlined the determination of the staff to see justice done.

His daughters, Sarah and Leah, in a moving tribute on the Vita Cortex support website, said his fearless stance has made them proud.

Henry modestly played down his ongoing role in the protest -- but admitted that his greatest regret was not being well enough to attend a special fundraising concert staged in Cork for the Vita Cortex workers last month by his idol, Christy Moore. "I just couldn't go -- I was too tired and just wasn't up to it," he said.

Now, Henry is hoping that ongoing contacts between SIPTU, the Vita Cortex directors, IBEC and the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) can finally resolve the impasse.