Suspended sentence and fine for councillor who threw red paint over Harney in protest

A DUBLIN city councillor showed no remorse yesterday when she was found guilty of assaulting former health minister Mary Harney who was splattered with red paint at a hospital last November.

Harney had paint thrown at her, covering parts of her clothes, neck, chest and hands, during a sod- turning ceremony for a new primary care and mental health unit at Cherry Orchard Hospital in west Dublin, on November 1 last.

As the nation went to the polls yesterday Ms Harney, who did not seek re-election, was called by the state to give evidence against Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan.

The councillor, 29, with an address at Knock Riada, Chapelizod, in Dublin, who is a member of the socialist republican Éirígí party, had pleaded not guilty to assaulting the former health minister and criminal damage to her clothing, worth €600 to €800.

Judge Ann Watkin heard at the Dublin District Court that Minihan accepted the facts of the case but claimed she had been engaging in a “political protest”.

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

Judge Watkin said Minihan had “no excuse” and that the Éirígí councillor had “wasted” taxpayers’ money through legal aid fees and court time.

For the criminal damage offence, the judge imposed a two-month term which she suspended on condition the defendant keeps the peace for the next 12 months. In relation to the assault, Judge Watkin fined Minihan €1,500 which must be paid within a year or she will face a seven-day jail term in default.

“People are entitled to protest but are not entitled to do that,” the judge said.

Ms Harney, the chief prosecution witness, took the stand and said she had attended the ceremony where local councillor Minihan introduced herself.

“She said she would like to have a word with me later, I said certainly,” Ms Harney told the court.

As she got on with the ceremony, she felt what she first thought was water but “when I looked up it was a red substance I subsequently discovered was paint”.

Ms Harney turned and saw 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 continued with the ceremony and afterwards returned to her home to change before her next event.

She said she would not accept compensation from Minihan, who was sitting in the dock a few feet away, but would prefer a donation to charity.

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