Niall Carson of the Press Association took two corker pictures yesterday and they’re in most of the Irish papers today. One is of Dublin City councillor Louise Minihan, who threw red paint over Mary Harney yesterday, looking young and defiant; the other is of Mary Harney, her hands, neck, chest and shovel splashed vivid crimson, doing her best to look as if nothing had happened. Minihan threw the paint over the Health Minister because she said the minister was part of a ‘blood budget’ that will result in the ‘unnecessary and avoidable deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people over the coming years’. Mary Harney, not surprisingly, says Minihan shouldn’t have thrown the paint and should have chosen a dignified and lawful form of protest. Like picketing.
Was Minihan right to do what she did? Well, as an unlawful action it’s a bit short of germ warfare or detonating a nuclear device. As a way of drawing public attention to an issue, though, it’s a spectacular success. Few media outlets, including our own dear, dull VO, can resist a picture like this, and once seen, you don’t forget it. Minihan is ex-Sinn Fein, now an éirigí councillor. Whatever your political position, you’d be mean-spirited in the extreme if you didn’t admire her ability to cut through all the ifs and buts and but-don’t-forgets, and shoot the issue of hospital cuts in the twenty-six counties to the top of the public attention list. If other public representatives, north and south, could show similar imagination, we’d be less disaffected from them. Mary Harney told reporters yesterday ‘I think an incident like this, I do not believe, is what the vast majority of the people of Ireland would support’. Well done, Mary. A brainless, inaccurate statement to cap several years of heartless Health-Minister decisions. Louise the paint-bomber: 10; Harney and her private medicine fans: 0.