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Inquiry into conduct of Michael Shine imperative – Ó Caoláin

30 June, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the private members motion calling for an inquiry into the conduct of Michael Shine in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda Sinn Féin Health and Children Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said an inquiry is clearly necessary because of the complete failure of the system to respond appropriately to the very serious complaints raised by those who suffered abuse at the hands of Michael Shine.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“On behalf of Sinn Féin I fully support this motion in its call for the Government to provide appropriate support for the victims of sexual abuse, to establish a Commission of Investigation or another form of credible inquiry to investigate all matters relating to the conduct of Michael Shine in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and to ensure that proper procedures are put in place to help prevent abuse in the future.

“We recently debated the report of the Commission on Child Abuse, the Ryan Report, and it was rightly stated that the terrible crimes against children were compounded by the conspiracy to deny and to conceal and to intimidate those who dared to speak up. It was a conspiracy of the powerful against the powerless.

“In Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which was run by the Medical Missionaries of Mary, this culture of cover-up was replicated. We saw it most starkly in the case of the women who were mutilated by Michael Neary.

“The women victims of that scandal, some of them teenagers at the time of their operations, were put through dreadful experiences. Without their knowledge or consent, they had their wombs removed unnecessarily and were prevented from having more children. It ranks amongst the most horrific examples of medical malpractice. It was disgraceful that the secret inquiry by the Medical Council into the conduct of Michael Neary took so long to commence and then to complete, before it finally vindicated these women.

“We had the inquiry by Judge Maureen Harding Clarke which, while again vindicating the women, fell short of the public inquiry which was the original demand. Tribunals of inquiry have been held concerning much less grave matters.

“On my proposal the then North Eastern Health Board had requested the Minister for Health and Children to establish a full public inquiry into the delivery of Maternity Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. This also was not acceded to.

“We had the compensation scheme for Neary’s victims but it must also be put on record that there are outstanding issues here. I and others in this House have been pressing the case for a number of women excluded by the terms of reference of the compensation scheme. We have met with a stone wall from the Minister for Health & Children and I again appeal to her to revisit this matter and to do right by this small number of women who, like Neary’s other victims, were so grievously wronged.

“Now here we find ourselves again seeking justice for victims of another consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, another top professional who brought his profession into disrepute, who betrayed trust and abused his patients but who was, to a great extent, protected by the system.

“The victims of Michael Shine are still coming forward. There are scores of victims, many of them in Counties Cavan and Monaghan which I represent. Last week I met with one of them, Patrick Cusack of Carrickmacross. He was ‘Brendan’ in the Prime Time documentary but since then he has taken the very courageous step of revealing his identity in order better to seek truth and justice and to assist his fellow victims.

“Patrick Cusack was abused first by Shine when he was 11 years old and an in-patient in Drogheda. He returned to the hospital aged 19 when he was very seriously ill with meningitis. He was in a semi-conscious condition when he was again abused by Shine. As Patrick himself states:

‘My life was turned upside down. It took me another 20 years before I started to deal with the extreme pain that his sexual abuse had caused.’

“The pain of the victims has been compounded by the slowness of the system in responding. It was only last week that the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney met with Dignity for Patients which represents the victims of this former consultant.

“An inquiry is clearly necessary because of the complete failure of the system to respond appropriately to the very serious complaints raised by those who suffered abuse at the hands of Michael Shine. Major questions need to be answered by the hospital management, the former Health Board and its successor the HSE, the Department of Health & Children an Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“Given the number of victims coming forward a major question mark must hang over the thoroughness of the original Garda investigation into the conduct of Michael Shine. That investigation culminated in his 2003 acquittal on charges of indecent assault on six teenage boys.

“The role of the management of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda must also be probed. Their role in the Neary case was reprehensible. Are we expected to believe that they were not aware of the activities of Michael Shine and did not conspire to cover up so many abuses carried out over so many years?

“A public inquiry is necessary to answer these and the other key questions. The call by Dignity for Patients for a public inquiry has been supported by One in Four, the Rape Crisis Centre, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Barnardos. When Minister of State John Moloney replied to the issue as a matter on the adjournment on 16 June on behalf of the Minister for Health & Children he stated that the Minister had indicated that she does not propose to establish a further inquiry.

“This was before the Minister finally met Dignity for Patients last week. The amendment in the name of the Minister states that she discussed with Dignity for Patients the group’s call for an inquiry and will revert to them in July after she has discussed the issues involved with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and conferred with other Ministers. What does this mean? Is the Minister going to establish an inquiry or is she not? There must surely be enough information in the hands of the Minister already to make her determination. She should withdraw the amendment and allow the substantive motion to pass and proceed with setting up an inquiry. To do otherwise leads to the suspicion that the amendment is merely a devise to buy time until the Dáil rises for its summer recess and the political pressure is taken off the Minister and her colleagues. But I believe pressure will be maintained on Minister Harney and on Minister Dermot Ahern in whose constituency this abuse took place and many of whose constituents were and are affected.

“I will conclude with the words of Patrick Cusack and urge the Government to listen and act on them:

‘I am asking that this Government of our great country deals with this sad case and is seen to facilitate justice for the victims. There are many more than me...Please, please put the wheels in motion so that these people and their families can find some serenity and peace of mind, which can only be attained by closure. This in turn can only be achieved when there is a full inquiry so that all the victims can be heard and so that Mr. Shine and all the relevant agencies involved account for their actions.’” ENDS

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