There is trauma in Raymond Dyas' eyes when he remembers himself as an eight-year- old child. In his memory, he is watching the carefreeness ebbing from his life, before it turned catastrophic.
It is 1966. He sees himself in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. He feels the soreness in his right shin while he waits for his name to be called out and to be told: 'The doctor is ready for you now'. He sees himself being led away from his mother in the waiting room to a wooden cubicle furnished with a child's brown leather bed. He sees the little sterile white gown he is wearing. He sees the nurse leaving.
"Then he started mauling me."
Raymond is 50 now, the father of nine children and grandfather of 11. He is a man of few words who can neither read nor write. The distance in his gaze tells of heavy medication and a haunting past. On and off, for eight years, he says, Michael Shine, the consultant surgeon at the Drogheda hospital where Raymond's mother was head cook, repeatedly molested him. The doctor, he says, never uttered a word during the assaults. "I felt embarrassed."
That first time, when he was eight and had a sore knee, he was lucky to be sent home with a bandage. Other times, he was admitted as an in-patient. "At 10 or 11 o'clock at night, he'd come around to do the same thing. He was the top doctor. Even if you weren't his patient, he'd abuse you anyway. I didn't understand what was going on. I thought if you had cuts on your arms there was no need [for the doctor] to be down there."
Those attacks may have activated signs of vulnerability in the child. Soon, he was being abused by a Christian Brother in his school. Raymond started mitching. He was sent to a different school. There too, a teacher sexually interfered with him. He stopped going to school. He was the third of 10 children in his family. His father worked in Drogheda docks. "I come from a good family," he says.
Gardaí came to his home to investigate his truancy. "I became a tearaway. I was never in trouble before that." He was too frightened to go to school. Because he was a wild boy, he was forever having tumbles and scrapes and being brought up to the hospital to be seen by Mr Shine.
"One day when I was 14, I took a motorbike for a spin." Two gardaí picked him up for questioning. "What in God's name is wrong with you?" demanded one of them. That, according to Raymond, was the first time he told members of the force he was being sexually molested by Mr Shine. It was 1972, eight years since the doctor had arrived in Drogheda and 23 years before he would finally depart the hospital on a €100,000-a-year pension in the course of a garda investigation. Raymond claims he was asked to sign a consent form to have his medical files released from the hospital. He remembers signing the sheet of paper. He further recalls talking to a third, more senior garda about Shine, that the garda wrote about it in his notebook and said to him: "We'll look into it." But after that, nothing changed.
"I turned very bitter agin the guards. They never did nothing. They didn't want to know about it," he says. "I didn't care about the law because the law didn't care about me." Eighteen months later, Raymond found himself in Mountjoy Prison doing three months for stealing three bags of coal. It was the first of two sentences he would serve there; the second for non-payment of a bill.
He says the last time Michael Shine sexually assaulted him, he was 16 with an arm injury and was sent to the doctor's private consulting rooms on Fair Street in Drogheda. "I told him to stop. I said: 'That's wrong, what you're doing.' He immediately took his hand away."
A year later, at the age of 17, Raymond got married. Three years after that, aged 20, he made his first suicide attempt by cutting his wrists. At the age of 28, he says he told a senior garda in Drogheda, now retired, about Shine. Again in 1989, he says, he told two other detectives at the Drogheda station, one of whom is deceased, that Shine had repeatedly sexually assaulted him when he was a child.
Unknown to Raymond, a man living abroad made a formal complaint to Drogheda gardaí in March 1994 that Shine sexually molested him when he was a child patient in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
Separately and unrelated, a second man made a sworn statement to the same effect in June 1994. One of those men was told by a senior investigating garda that a third complainant would be required to corroborate their evidence. This garda was one of the three members of the force Raymond Dyas claims to have told in the 1970s. No mention was made of Raymond and the complaints he had started making 22 years earlier. Though it would take nine years for a trial to get under way, there were media reports of the preliminary court appearances of a doctor on child sex-abuse charges. Locally, word spread like wildfire that the unidentified doctor was Shine.
Raymond again raised the matter in early 1998 with one of the gardaí he had confided in a decade earlier. The garda told him to come down to the station and make a statement. Raymond went. It was March 1998. "Two guards took the statement. It was three or four pages long. I signed it. I never got a copy of it," he remembers. "They didn't tell me anyone else had made a statement."
Again, nothing came of it. Meanwhile, Raymond had been diagnosed with agoraphobia. He took a number of overdoses and finally suffered a nervous breakdown. He was admitted to hospital in Ardee. He told a psychiatrist about Shine. He believes it was because of his allegations that he was sexually abused as a child that a Dublin-based counsellor was commissioned by the Lourdes Hospital to conduct a risk assessment to ascertain if Raymond presented a threat to his own children. He feels deeply aggrieved about this.
In October 2003, when the trial of Michael Shine began in Dundalk Circuit Court, Raymond did not attend. "They said they were only taking the 10 strongest cases. They didn't need mine." Shine was acquitted on all charges. Last November, the septuagenarian was struck off the medical register by order of the High Court following an investigation by his peers on the Medical Council's fitness-to-practise committee into allegations that he sexually abused child patients. Prompted to act once again, Raymond went to Drogheda garda station to make a fresh statement, accompanied by his wife, Tina.
"It will be the first time in my life that I'm believed if the guards follow up my statement this time," says the man who has been unemployed for most of his adult life but has returned to school two days a week to study English, Maths and computers. "When I made my statement this year, it wasn't like the last time. It was written in pen the first time. It took a couple of hours. They told me there was no record of the statement I made in 1998. They can't find it. They asked me was I sure I made it. Because I was a troublemaker, they didn't want to know. I was branded.
"At the meeting in the Boyne Valley Hotel [organised by Dignity 4 Patients, the support and advocacy group for traumatised patients], I knew a few of the others. I was shocked. There was a father and son who didn't know about each other until they were in that room. You were afraid to turn your head to look at the people beside you. It was a shocking thing walking into that room, so it was.
"I'm going public on this because I want people to know what's going on. It's shocking when your voice isn't being heard. He [Shine] branded me. I was judged. I was a bad bloke growing up. I felt I was in a cage. I was reaching out for help and no one helped me. I want people to see the truth. I want someone to stand up and say 'this man is telling the truth'."
Far-reaching questions remain to be answered about the state's prosecution of Michael Shine, who was found not guilty of all charges after a four-week trial in October 2003.
"I was there for much of it," says One in Four founder Colm O'Gorman. "It was an extraordinary trial. Ridiculous evidence was given that was completely incongruous and made no sense at all"
Campaigners for a state inquiry into Shine who, they claim, will be exposed as "the biggest serial sexual abuser in this state", want to know:
* Why was the trial held in Dundalk where Shine was well known and widely regarded as a pillar of the community?
* Why did the state's lawyers not object to three jurors who were, respectively, a former patient of Shine's, the daughter of another former patient, and an employee of the North Eastern Health Board? (Shine was a member of the board and even attended one of its meetings while he was under garda investigation)
* Why was Shine allowed offer medical advice to a member of the jury when she fell ill during his trial?
* Why were expert witnesses not called to give evidence on behalf of the victims when 15 professional colleagues of Shine testified on his behalf?
* Why have some of the charges relating to other complainants which were not included in the trial never been activated?
* How could the Medical Council make findings against Shine in the cases of two specific victims when the state failed to bring their cases to trial?
"We have very serious questions about the DPP's handling of the case," said Bernadette Sullivan, coordinator of Dignity 4 Patients.
In February 2004, Colm O'Gorman wrote a five-page letter to the DPP, James Hamilton, enumerating 17 aspects of the prosecution that raised concerns among Shine's victims. One point dealt with the trial judge's observation in court that no evidence had been presented to explain the nine-year delay in the prosecution. In fact, much of the delay was caused by legal challenges pursued by Shine in the High Court.
"It is difficult for the complainants to understand how the defence was allowed to
use a delay largely due to their own actions to discredit the complaints," O'Gorman wrote.
There is no record of a replying letter from the DPP's office.