Mary Harney, Ireland's Minister for Health, was pelted with red paint by a fellow elected politician when she arrived at an official turning of the sod for a new health care center in Dublin this morning.

The Minister had just stepped out of her car when she was attacked with red paint sprayed from a plastic sports bottle by Dublin City Councilor Louise Minihan at around 10.30am this morning.

Mary Harney's neck chest and hands were covered with red paint, however she continued with the official ceremony after Cllr Minihan was apprehended. Cllr Minihan is a former member of Sinn Fein and is now part of the socialist republican party Eirigí.

Soon after the incident Cllr Minihan was arrested and brought to Ballyfermot police station for questioning before being released without charge this afternoon. The Dublin politician had been invited a guest to the ceremony.

A group of 20 protesters were present to protest the Health Ministers presence and over upcoming cuts to the health service likely to be implemented in the upcoming budget.

A statement from Eirigí defended the councilors actions with Cllr Minihan saying: “the cheek to organize a publicity stunt at Cherry Orchard Hospital, where she was turning the sod for a long overdue mental health unit.

"This is the same hospital which has been starved of funding for years, where an entire ward for alzheimer's and dementia sufferers was closed down during the summer.

“The red paint that I used in today’s protest is symbolic of the blood that Harney, Fianna Fail 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.”

Speaking after the incident on RTÉ radio, Ms Harney said she did not accept paint-throwing as an acceptable form of protest.

“I find that very intriguing that somebody who’s an elected politician representing the people would be involved in a protest that I believe, and so many other people believe, is not legitimate,” she said.

“We see protests all the time and in every democracy protest is legitimate and it’s important people advocate in different ways, they can picket, they can make their voice heard. But I think an incident like this, I do not believe, is what the vast majority of the people of Ireland would support,” the minister added.