Long delays in Shine abuse inquiries criticised
THE DELAY in Garda inquiries into abuse by Michael Shine are likely to result in the former orthopaedic surgeon having “passed on” before his victims can confront him, the Dáil has heard.
Minister of State Kathleen Lynch agreed with Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin that Garda inquiries are “taking an inordinately long time” and said she would pursue the matter with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.
Mr Ó Caoláin had called for the Government to pursue an inquiry into the abuse by the former surgeon at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, following a High Court settlement of one of the cases by Ronan MacConnoran.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said there were scores of victims and he reminded the Dáil of a motion in 2009 by Minister for Health James Reilly, when in Opposition, calling for a “credible inquiry” into how complaints about allegations of abuse against the then surgeon were dealt with by the hospital, the Garda, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the health board, the HSE and the Department of Health.
Mr Ó Caoláin said that it was a “great disappointment” that Dr Reilly had also presided over a significant cut in funding to Dignity 4 Patients, which represents all Mr Shine’s victims.
Ms Lynch said in 2011 Dr Reilly planned for the abuse to be the subject of an Oireachtas inquiry but a referendum to give the Dáil appropriate powers was defeated.
Dr Reilly was now considering how best to deal with the issue and had to consider ongoing Garda investigations, files having been submitted to the DPP and pending civil cases. Ms Lynch said “it would be wrong to do anything that might impede these investigations and pending cases”.
But Mr Ó Caoláin said the “long delay in these inquiries is only likely to lead us to one place, Michael Shine will have passed on. There will be no opportunity for his victims to face their abuser and to give account of the terrible vista he visited on their young lives”.
Some of the victims believed, because of the delays, that “an agenda . . . is being allowed to unfold”.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD referred to the case of Patrick Cusack of Carrickmacross who was first abused, aged 11, by Mr Shine as an inpatient at the Drogheda hospital. When Mr Cusack was 19 he was admitted to the hospital “very seriously ill with meningitis and was, when in a semi-conscious condition, again abused by Mr Shine”.
Mr Ó Caoláin said the pain of victims was compounded by the slowness of the system to respond.
Ms Lynch said the difficulty with an inquiry was, “I do not believe there is any stomach in the House or among the public for another public inquiry, no matter the circumstances or what we believe”.
She agreed Garda inquiries were taking “an inordinately long time and we need to ensure they are brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible, no matter what the outcome”.