Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Minister for Health Mary Harney has been attacked with red paint as she turned the sod on a new health centre beside the Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot this morning.Harney was not long out of her car when she was hit by paint sprayed from a sports bottle, at about 10:30am this morning, by an member of Dublin City Council, Cllr Louise Minihan – formerly of Sinn Féin and now of socialist republican party Eirigí.
Cllr Minihan was was arrested, PA reported, in connection with the incident, and brought to at Ballyfermot Garda Station for questioning. Minihan had been an invited guest at the ceremony.
20 demonstrators had turned out to protest at Harney’s presence and at the cuts in health services likely to be seen in the coming Budget.
Harney – whose neck, chest and hands (including rings on her wedding finger) were covered in the paint – nonetheless continued with the ceremony after Gardaí apprehended the protester involved.
An Eirigí statement – released just minutes after Cllr Minihan was released – defended her actions, with Minihan saying that the minister had 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.”
She later told RTÉ’s Liveline that the red paint she used was a symbol of the “blood on her [Harney’s] hands” as a result of the deaths caused by the various cutbacks in the health service.
This evening Dublin’s Lord Mayor Gerry Breen condemned the attack and encouraged her to resign her seat from the council – telling Today FM’s Last Word that the council would be investigating disciplinary procedures against her, as she had been present as a member of the city council.
Harney is blamed by many for having overseen a deterioration in Ireland’s public healthcare, and is likely to see her department’s budget cut by €1bn in next month’s Budget. The Health budget was cut by a similar amount in last year’s Budget.