Arrest after Harney paint protest
A Dublin councillor has been arrested after Health Minister Mary Harney was pelted with red paint as work began on a new mental health unit.
The TD was splattered across her neck, hands and clothes as protesters angry at health budget cuts gathered at the planned facility in west Dublin.
Despite the paint attack, Ms Harney continued with the turning-of-the-sod ceremony at the new Ballyfermot Primary Care and Mental Health Centre. The attack took place in the grounds of the unit as up to 20 protesters mounted a demonstration at the gates.
A Garda spokesman said city councillor Louise Minihan was released without charge about an hour later. A garda spokesman said a file would be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Minihan said 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."
"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.
"Today Mary Harney had the cheek to organise a publicity stunt at Cherry Orchard Hospital, where she was turning the sod for a long overdue mental health unit.
"This is the same hospital which has been starved of funding for years, where an entire ward for Alzheimer's and dementia sufferers was closed down during the summer."
Local councillor Brid Smith, who organised the protest on behalf of the Save Cherry Orchard Hospital Campaign, said she was surprised at the incident but could not condemn it.
"Louise was telling her she was attacking the most vulnerable in healthcare. It was a very dramatic moment."