Wednesday 29 March 2017

Unrepentant city councillor fined €1,500 for paint attack

Health Minister Mary Harney TP after she was pelted with red paint in protest at health cuts. Photo: PA
Health Minister Mary Harney TP after she was pelted with red paint in protest at health cuts. Photo: PA

Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN city councillor yesterday refused to make a charitable donation over the attack which left former health minister Mary Harney splattered with red paint.

Louise Minihan (29), who is a member of the socialist republican Eirigi party, was fined €1,500 and given a two-month suspended jail sentence after she was found guilty of assault.

Ms Harney was called by the State to give evidence against Ms Minhan, who insisted it was a "symbolic" act.

Ms Harney had paint thrown at her, splattering her clothes and body, during a ceremony for a new health unit at Cherry Orchard Hospital in west Dublin on November 1 last.

The former minister told the court that, at the ceremony, local councillor Ms Minihan had introduced herself.

"She said she would like to have a word with me later. I said certainly," Ms Harney told the court. Ms Harney later turned and saw Ms Minihan holding "some class of a bottle" and heard her say "you have blood on your hands".

The paint was on her shoulders and neck and "on my woollen coat and dress underneath, and my boots were damaged."

She estimated Ms Minihan had caused €600 to €800 damage to her clothes as it was not possible to remove the paint.

Supporters brandishing placards with anti-government slogans gathered outside, as Ms Minihan pleaded not guilty to assaulting Ms Harney and causing criminal damage to her clothing.

Judge Ann Watkin heard at the Dublin District Court that Ms Minihan, from Knock Riada, Chapelizod, Dublin, accepted the facts of the case but claimed she had been engaging in a "political protest".

Solicitor Kieran Conway, for Ms Minihan, put it to Ms Harney that his client's motive was to protest and her actions were not personal.

The former minister, who did not stand in yesterday's election, replied: "I do not think it is an acceptable form of protest in a democracy."

She left the courtroom after giving evidence.

Garda Sergeant Simon Murphy said he saw the accused throw paint from a plastic sports bottle at the minister.

After being found guilty, the councillor, a mother-of-one who earns €17,500 a year, refused to do community service or make a donation to a charity nominated by Ms Harney as she wanted to "stand over her actions".

Ms Harney had refused to accept compensation, instead requesting a donation be made to charity.

The judge said the councillor had "wasted" taxpayers' money through legal fees and court time. A two-month term handed down was suspended on condition she kept the peace for 12 months. In relation to the assault, Ms Minihan was fined €1,500. "People are entitled to protest but are not entitled to do that," the judge said.

Outside the court, Ms Minihan vowed to continue protesting.

"It was a legitimate form of protest against the minister and Government, which has overseen the destruction of our health service," Ms Minihan, who did not take the stand, said.

She added: "It was diluted red paint that I used, it was more symbolic of the blood that she has on her hands for the decisions she made as health minister."

Ms Minihan was first elected to the city council to represent Dublin's South Central area on the city council in 2007 for Sinn Fein, before later joining Eirigi.

Irish Independent

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