Harney makes complaint over paint attack

probe: Councillor Minihan may be charged

Clodagh Sheehy and Geraldine Gittens

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney has made a formal complaint to gardai about the councillor who poured red paint over her on Monday.

Gardai investigating the paint attack have sent a file on the incident to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

As a result, Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan may be charged with an offence under the Public Order Act.

It is understood that the minister gave a detailed statement to Detective Kieran McEneaney and Superintendent John P Quirke of Clondalkin Garda Station.

The move came as Dublin's Lord Mayor Gerry Breen has slammed the 29-year-old councillor's action and called for her resignation.

"This is not a legitimate form of protest. It was an appalling and dangerous action which will be condemned by all right-thinking people."

He told the Herald that he is recommending that the Protocol committee, which will meet on Thursday, December 2, investigate the paint incident.

Ms Minihan, who defected from Sinn Fein to join the left-wing republican group Eirigi, was arrested by gardai immediately after the attack on Monday morning.

She had been an invited guest at the sod-turning ceremony at Cherry Orchard hospital in Ballyfermot, Dublin, when she squirted the red paint from a bottle, splashing the minister and her garda driver.

Ms Minihan, who is from Ballyfermot, was later released from custody. The DPP will now determine whether criminal charges should be brought.

Possible charges include a breach of the peace, causing criminal damage and assault.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council refused to comment on the incident yesterday. However, it is understood that Ms Minihan did not breach regulations set out by the council's code of conduct, or the Local Government Act 2001.

Meanwhile, gardai are to recommend to Government that ministerial and State cars continue to be manned by garda drivers in the light of the paint attack on Minister Harney.

Senior gardai are not in favour of a pooling system as suggested by Environment Minister John Gormley.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy held a special meeting with his senior management team at the Garda College in Templemore to review the existing security and protection arrangements for ministers, office holders and other high-profile figures in the wake of the paint attack.

It is understood the group agreed there should be no changes to current arrangements and will issue this recommendation to the Government if asked for advice

At the Templemore meeting, chief superintendents pointed to the attack on minister Harney and other recent incidents where ministers had to face protesters.