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Vita Cortex staff for film festival gala

WORKERS who fought a 161- day-sit-in at a freezing Irish factory over a redundancy claim are to swap placards and woollen clothing for tuxedos and a stroll up the red-carpet.

The former Vita Cortex staff will be guests of honour at the gala premier of a documentary on their marathon industrial protest as part of the 57th Cork Film Festival.

Ireland's oldest film festival opened last night and runs until November 18 with over 300 Irish and foreign films.


The Vita Cortex dispute is the focus of a special documentary made by father and son, Declan and Barra O'Connell, of WildAcre Productions.

The film, 161 Days, will have its premier in the Gate Multiplex tonight with the full Vita Cortex staff attending.

Worker Cal O'Leary said they never expected on December 16 last that their plight would generate such an impact.

"We're thrilled to be honest but we never in a million years thought that any of this would happen last December when we learned our jobs were gone. It was our redundancy we were worried about and not stretch limos," he said.

For 161 days from December 16 until May 24, when a compromise deal was finally hammered out, the workers took shifts to occupy the former foam manufacturing plant on Cork's Kinsale Road.

Last July, the workers and their families were hosted as Aras an Uachtarain by President Michael D Higgins as a mark of respect.

Their plight made worldwide headlines and they received messages of support from trade union members and celebrities, including actor Cillian Murphy, comedian Des Bishop, former President Mary Robinson, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, soccer stars Paul McGrath and Andy Reid, singer-songwriter Christy Moore and campaigner Noam Chomsky.

The firm's longest serving employee, Sean Kelleher, boasted 47 years service.

"We had a cause worth fighting for and the support of the people. What more could you want?" he said.