Belfast Telegraph

Harney anger over red paint protest

Health Minister Mary Harney has branded a protest unlawful after red paint was poured over her by an angry councillor.

Ms Harney condemned the actions of elected politician Louise Minihan as not legitimate and an unacceptable form of protest against budget cuts.

The TD was splattered across her neck, hands and clothes as she began the turning-of-the-sod at a new mental health facility in west Dublin.

Despite the paint attack, Ms Harney continued to mark the start of work at the new Ballyfermot Primary Care and Mental Health Centre, next to Cherry Orchard Hospital.

"I find that very intriguing that somebody who's an elected politician representing the people would be involved in a protest that I believe, and so many other people believe, is not legitimate," the minister later said.

Ms Minihan, a Dublin City councillor with left-wing republican group Eirigi, was arrested by gardai on suspicion of assault and questioned at Ballyfermot Garda Station for around an hour. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She later attempted to defend her actions - stating she poured diluted red paint over the Minister to symbolise the blood Government had on its hands.

"In one month's time the Government will introduce what can only be described as a blood budget," said Ms Minihan.

"The cutbacks in healthcare that will be contained in that budget will result in the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the coming years."

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

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