Parade grand marshal call for Vita workers

City officials have ruled out a proposal to allow the Vita Cortex workers lead Cork’s St Patrick’s Day parade.

However, the man behind the idea vowed last night to continue his campaign to ensure the 32 workers, who have been staging a sit-in at the former foam factory since Dec 16, are this year’s grand marshals.

Cllr Chris O’Leary (SF) said the workers have gained global recognition in their battle for full redundancy payments.

They have been backed by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, soccer legend Paul McGrath, human rights champion Noam Chomsky, and former President Mary Robinson.

Christy Moore is playing a sold-out benefit gig for them in Cork this weekend.

Mr O’Leary said honouring the workers as parade grand marshals would be a fitting gesture.

But a senior city official who is involved in the organisation of the parade poured cold water on the idea.

“While the council is very aware of the groundswell of support for the Vita Cortex workers, the parade is very much a community celebration and is not a platform for any particular cause,” he said.

Negotiations are ongoing with potential grand marshals and an announcement will be made soon, he said.

This will be the first time since 2007 that the city’s parade has been staged on a Saturday.

Up to 3,000 participants are expected to parade from the start point at the east end of South Mall through the Grand Parade and on to St Patrick Street.

Instead of proceeding down Merchant’s Quay, it will finish at the northern end of St Patrick’s Street.

Organisers have asked madcap Paddy Games organiser Colin Carroll to stage some of his whacky events as part of the parade.

Mr Carroll, 38, ploughed his life-savings into the inaugural Games at the city’s Mardyke Arena last August.

It featured events like a 100-metre blindfold dash, a 400-metre crawling race, a loudest roar and mobile phone throwing contest.

But the 38-year-old former solicitor failed to attract big-name sponsors, and he says the event cost him an estimated €50,000, forcing him to move penniless to Lisbon, where he still lives.

But the man who once represented Ireland at sumo wrestling and led an Irish team to victory in the world elephant polo championships, said he is considering a return to Leeside to resurrect the Games for the parade.

“I had ambitions to make the contest an annual event, but there just wasn’t the interest from businesses that I’d anticipated,” he said.

“I had pretty much forgotten about the Games until I was contacted by the organisers of Cork’s Paddy’s Day parade.

“I’m not ruling it out, but I would need public funding and sponsorship this time to make this work.”

* For more, log onto corkstpatricksfestival.ie.

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