Councillor Held Over Harney Paint Protest

A councillor from the Éirígí party has been questioned by Gardaí after a bottle of red paint was thrown at the Minister for Health Mary Harney during an event in Dublin.

The party claimed responsibility for the protest on its website yesterday, identifying councillor Louise Minihan as responsible for covering the Minister in red paint as she turned the sod at the site of the new Ballyfermot Primary Care and Mental Health Centre beside the Cherry Orchard Hospital.

In a statement on the website, Ms Minihan, who is in her late 20s, said: "The red paint that I used in today’s protest is symbolic of the blood that Harney, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have on their hands.

"Irish citizens are literally dying to satisfy the demands of the IMF, the EU and the money markets. The wealth of this country should be used to provide a first class health service that is open to everyone and not to bail out the private banks.”

The statement added that Ms Minihan was arrested and taken to Ballyfermot Garda station before being released without charge at 11.30am.

As Ms Harney arrived at the site yesterday, around 20 angry protesters assembled carrying placards saying "bail out our hospitals, not the banks" before a thrown bottle containing red paint splattered the TD across the neck, hands and clothes.

However, Ms Harney continued with the turning-of-the-sod ceremony despite being covered in red paint.

There has been growing resentment over plans to make healthcare cuts, which have been exacerbated by the recent closure of facilities in Navan Hospital.

The Éirígí party accused Ms Harney of having "cheek" organising a "publicity stunt" at the Hospital, which they claim has been starved of funding for years and where an entire ward for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers was closed down during the summer.

Meanwhile this morning, the HSE has said it can "confirm" that no decision has been taken to close Our Lady's Hospital in Navan.

Speculation had mounted earlier this year that the hospital was being wound down following the closure of its surgical facilities. But the HSE has maintained today that the changes to surgical services were made solely in the interest of "providing the highest quality of service to patients", and were based on expert clinical advice and on foot of the recommendations of a number of reviews of the Department of Surgery in Our Lady's Hospital.


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