A councillor has pleaded not guilty at Dublin District Court to assaulting Health Minister Mary Harney who was splattered with red paint at a hospital last November.
Minister Harney, who now may have to give evidence in the trial, had paint thrown at her 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.
Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan (aged 29) of Knock Riada, Chapelizod, in Dublin, a member of the socialist republican Eirigi party, had been charged in November and appeared in court last month in relation to the incident.
She is accused of assaulting the health minister and criminal damage to her clothing.
At her first court appearance, on December 15 last, the defence had said that copies of the prosecution statements had already been received and the councillor was then remanded to appear again today to enter a plea to the charge.
She arrived at the court building this morning with a group of supporters holding placards and briefly held one saying “Warning Harney is a health hazard” before going inside.
When the case was called, state solicitor Jane Farrell told Judge Hugh O'Donnell “it is going for a hearing and will take half a day.”
Ms Minihan stepped forward and 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 next.
After the case, the councillor confirmed that she was pleading not guilty and contesting the allegations; she then stood alongside seven supporters, who had an Eirigi flag and placards.
Ms Minihan was elected to the city council to represent Dublin's South Central area in 2007 when she was a member of Sinn Féin.
However she later left Sinn Féin and is now a member of the Eirigi party.
Before the alleged incident protesters had been locked outside the gates of the site when Ms Harney arrived. A peaceful picket had been staged by the Save Cherry Orchard Hospital Campaign, a respite care and full-time beds unit for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, which recently lost a 22-bed ward.
Minister Harney continued with the ceremony after parts of her clothes, her neck, chest and hands were covered in paint