Message of Support From The Electrical Trades Union, Queensland, Australia



We have been following your struggle here in Queensland Australia since it started and wish to convey our solidarity with you and congratulate you on your actions.

I’ve had to front up to bankruptcy court on many occasions where bosses have gone broke, left their workers with nothing and reopened the next day with no repercussions, it is a total disgrace.

In your case, public support will help you in your struggle and on that front you have plenty, including from us here in Australia.

I see Pat Guilfoyle from the CCTU/TEEU is helping out as well,I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Pat in Cork a few years ago, the man is a principled unionist and I’m proud to see him involved.

Anyway, all the best, you have our support and admiration.


Peter Simpson

State Secretary

Electrical Trades Union Queensland

M. 0419 721 041 F. (07) 3844 9851


A Short Response to Some of Today’s Spin

Firstly, the fact that Mr. Sean McHenry has finally decided to speak about the situation is to be welcomed but his perspective skewed.

He is quoted as saying in regards to the peaceful protest staged by some of the workers outside his home that “It’s not very pleasant for my wife and family. My wife won’t go outside the  house now, which is unfortunate. But we’ll get through it.”

Again, can we have some perspective please. Mr McHenry can not even begin to imagine how ‘unpleasant’ it has been for 32 workers to spend the last 41 days and nights living in a cold, damp and dreary factory because their rights are being denied. The workers spent Christmas and New Year’s away from their homes and their loved ones. Some of the workers have become ill and one is now in hospital. There is no need to go into detail on the stress and the pyschological impact this is having on the workers and their families. It is beyond ‘unpleasant’.

He is also quoted as saying in reference to the dispute “At the moment, I have no intention of doing anything about it.” Implying that the protest at his residence has caused him to deviate from some imagined course of proactivity to reach a resolution. This is absurd and clever play with words. He was doing nothing and he never expressed any intention of using his considerable influence to do anything about this dispute. The protest outside his home did not not knock him off some honourable course.

On a professional-level,Mr.McHenry is a director of the company. He remains a shareholder in the company and was at the company for 53 years. On a personal level, he is Mr.Ronan’s Father-in-Law. The combination of these two factors allows Mr.Henry considerable influence. Why then is he not using this influence to advise his son-in-law to do the decent and just thing by delivering a fair settlement?

Mr. McHenry’s commentary on Jack Ronan’s engagement with the LRC and NAMA amounts to somebody saying something without really saying anything! The fact that he choses to ignore the manoeuvre, made by Mr.Ronan, which effectively led to the collapse of the talks is expected but also telling. His selective referencing, on this matter, make his comments ring hollow.

Furthermore, there are comments in today’s press from other members of the McHenry family. In these comments it is suggested that we are being used or lead by sections of the media and politicians for their own ends. Firstly, we know our own minds and we know very well the nature and dynamics of this situation. There is nothing to be gained by suggesting anything else.

If we have been used as pawns or hostages it has been by the company owners.

Noam Chomsky Supports Cork’s Vita Cortex Workers

Noam Chomsky

World renowned theorist and writer Noam Chomsky has sent a message of support to the Vita Cortex workers describing their struggle as ‘courageous’ and ‘honourable’. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) professor and author of acclaimed works such as Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Edward Herman) and Pirates and emperors, old and new: international terrorism in the real world heard of the worker’s situation through the The Support Vita Cortex Workers online campaign.

The text of the message is as follows:

To the workers of Vita Cortex, Cork, Ireland.

I have just learned of your struggle and occupation, and your determination to carry on in the face of suffering and repression — and the unconscionable failure of the state to act on its responsibilities to you and other working people, symptomatic of all too much that is happening around the world today.  I hope that your courageous and honorable actions will be a model that will inspire others as well to act instead of succumbing passively, and wish you the greatest success in this just and crucial campaign for basic rights.

Noam Chomsky

Professor Chomsky is also known as a political activist suspicious of big media, big  business and big government.

She smiled and walked up the garden path to hang the now bone-dry cloth on the washing line. I woke up. It was day 35.

Last night, I had a dream.

My mother was standing in the back yard wringing out the wash cloth which she used to clean the floors of an office building not far from where we lived. She worked there in the afternoons, while we were at school, to bring in a little extra money. Her hands were quite wet and red from the effort that she was putting in. She wanted her cloth to be dry. She wanted to do a good job.

I hadn’t seen her in the 3 years since she passed away. It was her first visit home. She looked at me and grinned a mammy’s grin.

“Go on? What have I been missing boy?”, knowing that I would only be too eager to give her all my news. I’m a chatterbox.

“There are thirty-two factory workers on a sit-in out in Ballyphehane, Mam…. for over a month now. They say that they are not moving until they get what they deserve.”

She gave the grey cloth one last, determined twist and a puddle formed on the ground. It was then that I noticed that her feet were bare. I was mesmerised by the image.

“Nice people I’d say too. Nice people are always the ones who do the struggling.”

She then became aware that I was still staring at her feet.

Don’t worry. I don’t need things like that anymore.”

She smiled and walked up the garden path to hang the now bone-dry cloth on the washing line. I woke up. It was day 35.

We received this from a supporter by email this morning and we thought we would share it with you all.

Former President, Mary Robinson, expresses sympathy and support for Vita Cortex Workers

 The folllowing is the text of a letter we recieved this morning from Mrs.Robinson:

Mary Robinson-Former President of Ireland

Dear workers of Vita Cortex

I am writing in response to an email by a representative of the Support the Vita Cortex Workers campaign , to my office on Saturday 14 January 2012.

As a former President I believe it is not appropriate for me to interfere in national legal issues except in my capacity as member of the Council of State. At the same time, I have always supported the right of workers to be treated fairly. I sympathise with your desire and that of your co-workers to get a fair deal.

I hope that the negotiations under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission will result in an equitable resolution.

Kind regards

Mary Robinson

“When anybody becomes sick as result of having to fight for their basic entitlements you have a human rights issue. We have a human rights issue at Vita Cortex”

I remember reading an interview with Otto Frank, the father of a young girl whose diary changed, forever, the way the world viewed human suffering. In the interview he uttered the poignant words, “I believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight prejudice.”  

Prejudice (noun) 1.unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature  

It wasn’t until some of the workers on the sit-in started to become ill, one with Pneumonia, that the gravity of his words resurfaced in my mind. It hit me. The Vita Cortex situation is one that is steeped in prejudice- the prejudice of the “haves” such as Jack Ronan and Sean McHenry towards the so-called “have-nots” such as my Dad and his co-workers. The unreasonable feeling shown by the company owners towards a group of human beings, who have always worked hard for them, has been disgusting. Their antipathy towards ordinary people, who they clearly see as little more than a disposable resource, has led to members of our community, sleeping on a cold factory floor with the mice.

The factory floor: The sleeping area at Vita Cortex

When good, decent men like Henry O’Reilly become sick as a result of such treatment, then line has been crossed. It is not only after being crossed, it is a dot in the road.  When anybody becomes sick because of having to fight day and night simply to secure their basic entitlements, you have a human rights issue. We have a human rights issue at Vita Cortex.

The constitution of the World Health Organisation states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” The prejudice shown towards working people by these two “middle-class merchants”, as Yeats would have described them if was still 1913, has violated the human rights of the Cortex 32.

If you are supporting the campaign knows this – you are standing in defence of human dignity. You have taken responsibility for fighting prejudice.  This is sadly a story where its “once upon a time in land far, far away” reads “Today… in 2012…. in a land we all call home” and it is not a fairytale. Although, it has its villains in the form of the company owners and it’s certainly have its heroes in these 32 workers.

If you have paid close attention you will see that the Cortex struggle has turned the understanding of the phrase “have and have-nots” on its head. The haves? My Father and his friends on the sit-in. They have the respect, love, admiration and even gratitude of a nation for standing up and being counted. The have-nots? Well I hope the stacks of cash that Ronan and McHenry are hoarding for themselves keep them warm at night.

And to a certain point they have been allowed to get away with it. I cannot but question the moral values of a system that would leave 32 human beings virtually living in a factory, sleeping on slabs of foam, because they felt they had no other avenue by which to secure their rights. Anytime a person is threatened with the prospect of being stripped of their human dignity, we have a humanitarian problem. And we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. A zero-tolerance policy on human degradation is the only policy worth having. We need to be quick in stamping out the spark of any attempt to dehumanise members of our community, lest it catch fire. And that should include holding wealthy business men, such as Jack Ronan, to account when he attempts to exploit ordinary people.

Happier Days:Veronica with her Dad

The one thing that is clear to me is the huge difference between the moral fabric of the Cork and Irish public and that of the system under which we live. When I say ‘system’ I mean the mechanics of governance and our body of law and not necessarily the people who populate either. It is incumbent on all leaders, of every political perspective, to change it.

The public have stood with the exploited workers in Cork. The distinction, between system and society, is clear for all to see. As we move towards the LRC talks, I am once again reminded of the Franks  and a few lines from of Anne’s diary “ I keep my ideals because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  

We have suffered absolutely nothing in comparison to Anne Frank. The mere suggestion would be laughable. But Mr.Ronan tomorro, you have, in my eyes, the opportunity to prove her sentiments on human nature right

I hope you take it.

Veronica Marshall is from Fairhill and is a co-ordinator of the’Support The Vita Cortex Workers’ Online campaign. In recent weeks she has seen her father and his good friend Henry taken ill while on the sit-in. Her views are her own.


I saw my father bend over backwards for Vita Cortex and Sean McHenry, going above and beyond what was expected of him to support the company.

I am writing on behalf of my sister Sarah and myself to thank members of the public and media for showing such an outpouring of support to the Vita Cortex workers. My dad Henry O Reilly has worked there for 40 years.  I live in New York so it’s particularly painful to see my dad put in this position when I’m so far away. The story is gaining momentum in the U.S. also as Irish people here share the story and that gives me strength. During his 40 years of service, I saw my father bend over backwards for Vita Cortex and Sean McHenry, going above and beyond what was expected of him to support the company. That’s the type of person my dad is, he was either at work or at home taking care of us and he was happy doing that day in day out with no concern for himself. To see him now older, suffering with severe arthritis and being cast aside by Vita Cortex when he was no longer needed in the Jack Ronan empire is more than any of us can bear.  We must bear it though to support him and the other workers as long as it takes until they receive what they are entitled too.

We are expected to accept that owner Jack Ronan is unable to pay these workers, however it doesn’t take much investigating to see that indeed Mr. Ronan is doing quite well with numerous ventures and assets and simply doesn’t feel it necessary to pay innocent hard working people who helped keep his business running. Nama are citing technicalities such as sister companies in Dublin or Athlone being separate entities but in my opinion complicated webs of paperwork and abuses of company law have turned profits in to untouchable shadows and Mr. Ronan knows that, because Mr. Ronan planned that. In the last few days Mr. Ronan has emerged from the shadows he has lurked in since December 16th, his PR machine trying to damage control by saying that the bad publicity the former workers in Cork are causing for the company will result in job losses in Athlone and Belfast. Mr. Ronan is portraying himself as a man deeply saddened but we are not fooled. Mr. Ronan and Mr. McHenry are very wealthy men. They may try to convince themselves that living in luxury, while people who grafted for you for 4 decades are left with nothing, is perfectly acceptable as long as you hide behind the veil of company law but the ordinary people who have stood up in their tens of thousands to support my dad and his workmates will not. Mr. Ronan’s PR people will not convince them or us that we will be the cause of jobs in other plants. Mr. Ronan has proved he will cast aside everyone eventually to add to his empire. The ordinary, honest people of Ireland see that.
In the last 48 hours we have seen Mr. Ronan give his side of the story. We can really only see one side to this story however which is that employees did their service and their company is doing whatever it can to avoid paying them in a shameful way and in a last gutless, PR constructed move are trying to turn it on the workers themselves.  To sign off I just want to say to the Vita Cortex workers you have our unending support, and you are an inspiration to every employee in Ireland and the world to hold. You are holding your former employers to a standard our country can be proud of and, if Ireland is still the fair and just country we all love, you should have the full backing of government. Lastly I love you dad. You make me proud every day.


Henry and his wife Marion and daughters Sarah & Leah enjoying a family birthday

Dont forget that the Vita Cortex workers will appear on tonight’s Late Late Show. RTE One @9.35pm. Please tune-in and support.