Crime Health

Michael Shine Charged With Indecent Assault

Michael Shine is a retired consultant surgeon who worked at the Lourdes hospital in Drogheda.  He’s 80 years old and he’s been accused of multiple sexual assaults over the course of his career.  Michael Shine was today charged with 25 counts of sexually assaulting sixteen young men over a period of twenty years.  Nearly four years ago, Shine was struck off the medical register for professional misconduct after a number of men made allegations of sexual assault.  It was alleged that the assaults happened in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s while Shine was examining children and teenagers at the hospital and at his office.

The Sunday World, in typical hyperbolic style, called him Doctor Filth, while claimed that Shine may have abused hundreds of patients during his career.  Advocacy group One in Four called for an inquiry into Shine’s activities, and it was revealed in a 2009 RTE documentary that Shine had invested in an Indian orphanage and was taking a special interest in two particular boys.

Michael Shine has never taken legal action to restore his good name, despite all these claims which would, in the normal course of events, be disgracefully defamatory if found to be untrue.  What’s more, the medical profession found the allegations of sexual abuse so compelling, they kicked him out of their membership.

It’s not looking good for Michael Shine, but here comes a hard question.  Isn’t everyone in this country presumed innocent until proven guilty?

I thought so anyway and I’m sure lots of other people thought the same.

It’s not that I have any particular affection for Michael Shine, or for his appalling colleague in the same hospital, Michael Neary, whose arrogance allowed him to routinely butcher young women under his control — an arrogance that continues to afflict consultants in Irish hospitals.  What I have discomfort with is the notion of trial by media, or trial by internet.

I want to see this man hear the evidence against him.  I want to see him facing his accusers who, by all accounts, are well able to look him in the eye, and I want to see a jury weigh the facts.

Is this to protect Michael Shine?  Yes, but only to the extent that it also protects me, and it protects you, and it protects everyone else  accused of a crime.  That’s a fundamental principle of any democracy.

Here’s an extract from an old post about another case.  I think it’s relevant here.

Years and years ago, I was lucky enough to be burgled. I say lucky because I learned a great lesson about the nature of democracy as a result.

It was when I lived in Dublin. Somebody broke into the house in the middle of the night and stole one or two items and some money. The police came. They found the fingerprints of a known thief on the window. They arrested the thief, who swore he was never in that part of town in his life.

They charged him with the burglary, the case went to court before a jury and I was called as a witness. I can’t remember the name of the old judge, but I do remember him reading through the book of evidence, looking more and more troubled and finally sending the jury out of the room. Then he looked around the court before fixing the police with an unblinking basilisk stare.

According to this book of evidence, the defendant says he was never there in his life, yet his fingerprints were found on the outside of the window. This proves one of three things: either he has a bad memory, he’s a liar or the police are liars. It does not prove he was inside that house.

It gives rise to gross suspicion, but the day we start putting people in jail on the grounds of gross suspicion is the day we have a police state!

And, do you know something? He was right. I wanted to clap and cheer this old judge. Even though I was the victim of this thief’s crime, the police didn’t prove he was guilty. I’d have happily broken his legs, given half a chance, but he couldn’t go to jail, because there was a democracy to be protected. As simple as that.

Wise words.  It’s true that men like Shine and Neary swaggered around the wards of their fiefdom, unquestioned by the nuns who owned the establishment and immune to examination by the civil servants who ran the department of health.  It’s true that there was no culture of questioning the consultant, and there probably still is no such culture, unlike on our neighbouring island.  It’s true that these people were overpaid and under-scrutinised, leading to a God complex in many of them, but whatever we may think of the ethos that animated the Lourdes hospital in Drogheda, or for that matter, any other hospital in this religious-controlled little State, everyone is entitled to due process.  Even a struck-off hospital consultant.

Let the trial take its course, not only for the protection of Michael Shine, but for the protection of the rest of us who may one day face charges put to us by a police officer.  It’s for the courts to decide if that policeman is accusing us fairly or otherwise, not the internet and not the press.

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The Real Ireland

Details are emerging of women who were incorrectly diagnosed as having miscarried, and the story is gathering momentum.  It started with a woman who attended the notorious Lourdes hospital in Drogheda, but now women all over the country are beginning to tell how they were ignored, bullied and disbelieved when they requested a second opinion.

It isn’t a coincidence, and the Lourdes hospital isn’t unique, though it is an institution with a fearsome past where a butcher of an obstetrician inflicted unnecessary hysterectomies on hundreds of women, and where 26-year-old Sheila Hodgers was left to die screaming in agony because the nuns who controlled it at the time wouldn’t administer anaesthesia in case it harmed her unborn child.  She reached such an advanced stage of cancer because the hospital refused to administer an X-ray early in pregnancy, even though she had already had a mastectomy for breast cancer.  Again, the reason was religious — the X-ray might harm the foetus.

Sheila Hodgers died 30 years ago and the nuns are gone, but not the attitudes.

Michael Neary is an overbearing bully with a classic case of the God syndrome so common in Irish consultants, and the nuns have been replaced by the HSE but their legacy lives on.

I’ve written about this HSE crowd before.

These are the people who waited until they could gather 97 terrified women together in one place for the results of their cancer tests, even though  the slightest delay might result in the deaths of some of them.  It was done this way, not in the interest of the patients, but because HSE administrators found it more convenient to herd the women together in one place.

As I said in response to a report on this scandal, the health service is not run by professionals, but by unqualified administrators, light on knowledge and heavy on arrogance — an arrogance born out of the fear that they might be exposed for the ignorant incompetents they are.

As I said at the time, these people are from the vast ranks of mediocre know-nothings who arrived into the old Health Boards as junior clerks at the age of seventeen with a fair-to-bad school Leaving Certificate. If not for this stroke of luck, they might have struggled to find a job selling shoes.

These “managers” spent their formative years stamping pieces of paper and looking down their noses at poor people huddled outside a wooden hatch in some freezing Victorian health centre.

These are the geniuses who stuff our public service, and strangle the initiative of people with real talent and real vision. These are the dead weight that guarantee our health service is, and will remain, a complete disaster.

Why is this?  Why are the administrators in our health service so devoid of human feeling, so incompetent and so robotic in their treatment of the people who pay their wages?

Why are Irish consultants so different from their colleagues in Britain, who display considerably more empathy and who seem to be far less infatuated with their own egos?

I suspect that the miscarriage scandal is Ireland in microcosm.   The real Ireland that has never gone away since the foundation of the State.

There’s a common belief that the revolutionaries who initiated the War of Independence somehow had the interests of the ordinary Irish people at heart, but the evidence doesn’t bear that out.  Many of them, and perhaps even most of them, were well-off people who had little or no understanding of the worries that beset the common people, and for the most part, they held the common man in contempt.

These were people fighting to secure position and wealth for their families, who were already influential and entrenched in the professions in Ireland.

The ages-old dispute between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has nothing to do with ideological differences and everything to do with family rivalries, money, power, position and privilege.

What a revolution it turned out to be, when the revolutionaries gained control of the judiciary, the legal profession at large, medicine, engineering, architecture, construction and journalism.

The revolutionaries were rich, well-connected, deeply conservative, and their independent State cared nothing for the ordinary people.  It handed them over to the tender mercies of the Catholic church to beat and bugger them.  It left them to starve and die of TB in their thousands.

The sad reality is that when the British left, the Irish poor became poorer and sicker.  While the Brits were closing their industrial schools, our privileged elite were packing them with children for the delectation and profit of the clergy.

When a bishop — prompted by medical consultants who saw their wealth and power threatened — objected to a harmless Mother and Child scheme, the State cowered and capitulated.  These medical consultants were Irish, and they came from a long line of influential Irish families who had prospered under British rule.

In this very town, a Belfast doctor by the name of James McPolin, Chief Medical Officer for County Limerick, was particularly vocal in his opposition to the Act.

McPolin, as Declan Lyons describes in an excellent paper entitled Medicine in Limerick in the 20th Century, argued that State medicine contravened moral law, that it was the father’s duty to provide medical care for his dependants and the role of the family doctor and the church, not the State to educate mothers and children about health.

This was a doctor, paid by the State, arguing against State care for its citizens.  He exercised enormous power – of life and death – over the people of this town and I often heard the older people speak of him with a mixture of fear and detestation.  Ironically, Belfast doctors today treat their patients with far more humanity and humility than their southern counterparts do.

The dispensaries over which McPolin and his kind presided were authoritarian places, where the poor were told what was good for them, and how they may or may not conduct their lives.

Much later, a Fine Gael prime minister was able to vote against his own government on the issue of contraception – as if such a thing should have been a political issue at all – saying that he was a Catholic first and an  Irishman second.  Disgracefully, that Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, saw no contradiction between his democratic election by the people and his obedience to the law of his church.  As far as he was concerned, the people’s will mattered only when it didn’t conflict with his private views.

Anyone who has seen the State at work will know that petty officials treat the public like dirt, but of course, these petty officials are just ordinary people like you and me, so how do they come to be so arrogant?

The answer is, they’re not arrogant.  They’re frightened.  On one side, they’re afraid of their superiors and on the other, they’re afraid of being found out.  You see, if generations replaced themselves en masse, there would be no problem, but that isn’t how it works.  There’s always a senior person from the previous decade, carrying the attitudes and mindsets of the past, imposing them on the juniors and the younger ones.  The mindset that pervades our public service goes all the way back to the authoritarian foundation of the State, when well-connected men decided they’d like the Brits gone so that they could become even richer than they were already, and less accountable.

Ireland, I’m afraid to say, has never been a republic, despite the propaganda.

And that’s why doctors and nurses in Ireland feel entitled to bully and shout women down, when they dare to question the infallibility of their judgements.

And why is that?  Because behind it all, the bully is also afraid.

In this unfree non-republic, we never shook off the fear of being found out.

The real Ireland.


Previously: Ireland is not a republic

The medicalisation of society