NEARLY 10 years after allegations of indecent assault were first made against him, 72- year-old Michael Shine walked out of Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court as a free man yesterday and with a smile on his face.
He was accompanied by gardai as he left the courtroom and walked past visibly upset complainants and their families to a waiting taxi.
Mr Shine, who worked in Drogheda's Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital as a general surgeon from 1964 to 1995, had been sitting on his own for most of the four-week trial. In recent days, a number of nurses who had worked with him accompanied him to court.
From the time the case was called in Drogheda District Court, Michael Shine had pleaded his innocence and his team, led by Mr Felix McEnroy SC, took a number of legal challenges on his behalf. The last one involved a case stated to the Supreme Court on sentencing provisions of the Offences Against the State Act under which the charges were brought.
Mr Shine was one of the country's top surgeons. There was deep shock in the medical community and among those who knew of the allegations that someone in such a position of trust would be accused of such offences.
He qualified in 1956 at UCD and did his internship in the Mater Hospital before moving to London and Glasgow. He worked in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 1963 and told the court he was "invited back" as a consultant in 1964 because at the time there were many serious traffic accidents and he "had expertise in trauma surgery."
He worked there until 1995 when Garda investigation began. He told the court his last day at work was on the August Bank Holiday weekend He worked just one day because the phones were ringing constantly with enquiries from the Press. He said the nursing staff, junior doctors and medical board did not think he was a danger to patients but the Press did. He resigned in 1995.
Michael Shine was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and was four times elected as a representative of the medical profession on the North Eastern Health Board. He resigned from the board in December 1995.
The court was told of his expertise in testicular problems, breast cancer and wound healing.
During the trial Mr McEnroy told the jury Dr Shine would never work again and would spend the rest of his days dealing with compensation claims.
The Medical Missionaries of Mary, who ran the hospital at the time of the alleged offences, said there were a number of civil proceedings "in being against the order arising out of these complaints".