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Councillor's night in jail over Harney paint attack fine

A DUBLIN City Councillor has spent her first night in jail after failing to pay a €1,500 fine for throwing red paint over former Health Minister Mary Harney.

Republican party Eirigi member Louise Minihan (30) was arrested in her Ballyfermot constituency shortly after 2pm yesterday and taken to the Dochas Centre at Mountjoy Prison.

It is believed she can be held for up to seven days, but many people imprisoned for fines are released early because of prison pressures on space.

Ms Harney was attending a sod-turning ceremony for a new primary health care and mental health unit at Cherry Orchard Hospital on November 1, 2010, when Cllr Minihan (30) poured diluted red paint over Ms Harney.

Earlier this year, Cllr Minihan pleaded not guilty to assaulting Ms Harney and causing criminal damage to her clothes.

But she was convicted of the charges and received a two- month suspended sentence and a €1,500 fine -- which she has refused to pay.

Cllr Minihan told the district court that she had no intention of paying the fine.

The judge said she would serve a seven-day jail term if she did not pay it within one year. Giving evidence during the trial, Ms Harney told the court she heard Louise Minihan say: "You have blood on your hands" as she was hit with the paint.

Ms Harney said her clothes were damaged beyond repair to a cost of between €600 and €800.

Cllr Minihan said she wanted to give the money to Cherry Orchard Hospital, but the judge ordered the money should go to Ms Harney's chosen charity.

She refused to do so and also refused to do community service.



Protest

Judge Anne Watkins said the councillor had wasted taxpayers' money and court time.

In a statement posted on Eirigi's website, Cllr Minihan insisted her protest was "a legitimate political action which should never have been brought before the courts".

"I never intended to pay any court-imposed fine or to apologise for my actions," she said.

"To have done so would have undermined the legitimacy of my protest and the wider political struggle against the anti- social policies Mary Harney so proudly championed."

She also called for the resignation of the current Minister for Health, James Reilly.

mlavery@herald.ie