Councillor who threw paint at Harney released

Tue, Nov 2, 2010, 00:00

A FILE IS being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions after gardaí arrested a Dublin City councillor following an incident in which the Minister for Health was sprayed with red paint.

Mary Harney was launching a primary care and mental health centre at Ballyfermot yesterday, when she was doused with red paint by Louise Minihan, who was elected to the city council when she was a member of Sinn Féin.

Ms Minihan is now a member of socialist republican party Éirígí.

The Minister continued with the “turning the sod” ceremony, with the bright red paint stains clearly evident on her hands, her arms and her dress.

Ms Minihan was arrested on suspicion of assault and questioned at Ballyfermot Garda station for about an hour before being released without charge.

Ms Harney said Ms Minihan was not engaging in an “acceptable form of protest”. She said that while protests were legitimate in any democracy and that she understood that people were “hurting”, the Éirígí councillor had crossed a line by her actions.

“The vast majority of people would not regard the throwing of paint as a legitimate form of democratic protest,” Ms Harney said.

In relation to Ms Minihan’s arrest, the Minister said: “The law takes its own course in the sovereign. It’s something I shouldn’t interfere with, nor would I want to do so.”

Ms Minihan, a former Sinn Féin councillor, claimed she had poured the paint over Ms Harney’s shoulder and that it was “watered-down emulsion”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline, she said the red paint was symbolic because she wanted to tell the Minister she had the blood of Irish women, men and children on her hands over her “disastrous” decisions as Minister for Health.

She denied a suggestion from presenter Joe Duffy that it was ironic for a person who has supported the IRA’s armed struggle to complain of others having blood on their hands.

“It was symbolic – it shows the anger that was out there,” she said.

About 20 protesters had been locked outside the gates of the site when Ms Harney arrived, with Ms Minihan among the local representatives who greeted the Minister inside.

The peaceful picket had been staged by the Save Cherry Orchard Hospital Campaign, a respite care and full-time beds unit for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, which recently lost a 22-bed ward.

The new build next door will include a GP and a range of therapy, mental health and addiction services.

– (Additional reporting PA)