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Councillor denies Harney paint attack

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney may have to give evidence at a trial after a councillor yesterday denied assaulting her.

Ms Harney had paint thrown at her during a sod-turning ceremony for a new primary care and mental health unit in west Dublin on November 1.

Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan (29), a member of the socialist republican Eirigi party, was charged in November and appeared in court last month in relation to the incident.

She is accused of assaulting the minister and causing criminal damage to her clothing.

At Ms Minihan's first court appearance on December 15, the defence said copies of the prosecution statements had been received and the councillor was remanded to appear again yesterday to enter a plea to the charge.

She arrived at the court with a group of supporters holding placards and briefly held one, which read 'Warning! Harney is a health hazard!', before going inside.

When the case was called, state solicitor Jane Farrell told Judge Hugh O'Donnell the case was going to a hearing and "will take half a day".

Ms Minihan, of Knock Riada, Chapelizod, Dublin, spoke once to confirm her name to the judge, who remanded her on continuing bail pending a non-jury hearing of the case at the Dublin District Court on February 25.

Afterwards, Ms Minihan confirmed she was pleading not guilty and would contest the allegations.

Before the alleged incident, protesters had been locked outside the gates of the site when Ms Harney arrived.

A peaceful picket was staged by the 'Save Cherry Orchard Hospital Campaign'. The facility is a respite care and full-time bed unit for Alzheimer's and dementia patients, and recently lost a 22-bed ward.

Ms Harney continued with the ceremony after parts of her clothes, neck, chest and hands were covered in paint.

Irish Independent