HEALTH Minister Mary Harney’s refusal to allow a state inquiry into the alleged abuse of almost 200 people by former doctor Michael Shine has been unanimously rejected by a county council.
All members of Louth County Council, which includes six Government party officials, have called for a full inquiry into Mr Shine’s actions while working at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
The motion, which was put forward by Labour councillor and Drogheda deputy mayor Gerald Nash, directly contradicts Ms Harney’s decision last week to refuse a formal investigation into the case and keep the findings of a commissioned report into the matter secret.
The rare united move by members of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and a number of independents is one of the only times in the council’s recent history where all members have been in agreement on a potentially fractious issue.
Fianna Fáil representative Frank Maher said the move highlights the fact that the minister’s stance on the issue is no longer acceptable to communities in the area.
“My own feeling is the minister’s attitude is lacking in empathy. The alleged victims feel there is a lack of compassion there.
“This case pre-dates the scandal of Dr Michael Neary [who also worked at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda]. There was a report into that case which has since informed policy not just locally but nationally, but that has not been achieved here,” he said.
The Louth County Council call came less than a week after a tense meeting between representatives of the support group, Dignity4Patients and Ms Harney.
During the Leinster House meeting – which only took place after the Irish Examiner revealed the commissioned report into the case had not been published three months after its deadline – the minister said the document did not support the need for an inquiry.
However, she refused to provide any details confirming this position or the document itself, saying this information could impact on possible criminal proceedings in the case.
The possibility of these criminal proceedings was known by the minister before the report was commissioned.
A previous attempt to have a formal inquiry into the claims was voted down in a Dáil debate by 76 votes to 73. However, health spokespersons for Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin have confirmed their support for the move. Dignity4Patients has welcomed the move, and has re-stated its call for a full state investigation into the allegations.
Mr Shine, aged 79, was cleared of 11 indecent assault sample charges in a 2003 District Court case, but was later struck off during a Medical Council fitness-to-practise hearing.
On May 5, he was arrested at his home in Dublin city before being released without charge. He has always insisted he is innocent of the allegations.
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