‘Life hasn’t been the same for the last 100 days’

Former Vita Cortex workers this morning mark the 100th day of their mammoth sit-in with a Mass for close family and friends in the factory canteen.

The ex-workers face hardship and frustration while wives, husbands and children speak not only of their heartache but also of their pride as loved ones continue the fight for justice. They talk to Eoin English:

* Leah O’Reilly, 35, whose father Henry worked in Vita Cortex for 40 years.

“Living in New York and seeing my dad Henry having to fight for what is rightfully his and that which he was promised after 40 years of loyal service has broken my heart, both for my family and our country.

“I never thought I would see this in Ireland.

“A few months ago my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He has dealt with the diagnosis with the same dignified determination that he had on the sit-in.

“My sister and I have cried sometimes thinking about how our father is dealing with chemotherapy treatments and still having this fight for justice on his mind.

“I know dad feels guilty at times for not being on the sit-in and gets frustrated that he cannot do more as he was the spokesperson for the group in the beginning.

“Despite the hardship of the last few months my dad has made me smile and filled my heart with pride.

“We always knew our dad was a man of immense character who went above and beyond for people in his personal and professional life.

“For that reason, my sister Sarah and I have been really active in spreading the story and online to try to secure justice for all the workers.”

* David Anderson’s wife, Martina, worked at Vita Cortex for 22 years.

“The greatest impact of this ongoing dispute is the amount of time, or rather the lack of it, that we are currently able to spend together.

“During the working week I see my wife for half an hour in the morning as I’m getting ready for work, and if I’m lucky perhaps the same in the evening.

“When I return home from work Martina is getting ready to head in to do the evening shift of the sit-in.

“I put our 16-month-old-son, Nathan, to bed an hour or so after Martina has departed.

“My greatest regret is that my wife is missing out on those precious moments when Nathan is put up to bed.

“Half asleep, he buries his head into the side of my neck and wraps his arms around my head, knowing he is safe.

“Martina should also be experiencing those moments with her son, instead of being in a cold, empty factory.

“When Martina gets home around midnight I am normally in bed asleep.

“Another day when the three of us, as a family, have spent too little time together.

“I am very proud of Martina and I will continue to support her for as long as it takes.”

* Catherine Ryan’s husband, Denis, known to his friends as “Big Den”, worked in Vita Cortex for 40 years.

“Life hasn’t been the same for the last 100 days.

“Since Dec 16, there hasn’t been a day when we’ve had a normal family life.

“Denis is very tired for a man who is usually up at dawn.

“We miss him terribly and we want him back home.

“Denis misses his family terribly and has not had as much time as he would like to spend with them.

“The first day of the sit-in was our daughter’s birthday and we had to celebrate without him.

“This time of year he would usually be getting the garden ready for summer but all his energy is given to the sit-in and the garden has fallen in to disrepair, a reminder of all the things left unattended as long as this fight goes on.

“We long for the end of this ordeal. There must be a resolution soon.”

* Vivien O’Leary Callender’s father, Cal, worked in Vita Cortex for 44 years.

“My 14-year-old son tells his Granda’s story with nothing but pride as he understands what the sit-in represents.

“When I tell my two toddlers we are going to see Granda, we do not pull up outside our family home, but outside an almost derelict factory with red spraypainted words hanging from the gates, charting the length of the sit-in.

“An upsetting sight. But children, being the beautifully adaptable creatures they are, hop out of the car with excitement calling “Granda... Granda” and make their way to the canteen on a now familiar route.

“My dad is the one missing out here... on these amazing months of his grandchildren’s lives.

“These are months when they change from babbling to full conversation, from wobbling to chasing each other.

“It’s a time that can never be retrieved.

“All my dad wants is to be with his family. A pleasure he has earned by working all his life, a pleasure that has been taken from him.

“He deserves to be at home getting the love and care he needs, giving the love and care his grandchildren need.”

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