The five-month sit-in by former workers at the Vita Cortex manufacturing plant in Cork has ended.

A compromise deal to resolve the dispute was reached earlier this month, bringing to an end one of the longest sit-in protests in Irish industrial history.

The protest was in its 161st day when 23 workers walked out of the plant shortly before 3pm this afternoon.

Thirty-two workers began their protest over redundancy payments on 16 December last. Nine people abandoned the sit-in in January.

The workers' campaign received much public attention, with messages of support from high-profile figures such as Noam Chomsky, Mary Robinson and Alex Ferguson.

Intensive efforts failed to resolve the dispute, including Government intervention.

A compromise solution was finally agreed by both sides earlier this month.

The workers were met by a large crowd of family members, friends and supporters as they left the plant.

They said they were feeling mixed emotions but were glad they had stuck with the protest until they secured a deal they could endorse.