Prominent Northern Irish psychiatrists feature in New Year Honours list

Online news
04 January 2021

Two prominent psychiatrists from Northern Ireland have featured on the New Year Honours list. 

Former chair of RCPsych in NI and retired consultant general adult psychiatrist, Dr Philip McGarry and Dr Oliver Shanks, a retired consultant learning disabilities psychiatrist - both received an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen. 

Dr Philip McGarry - who has worked for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for 30 years - said he was "delighted" to accept the honour but that it had not been anticipated.

He said: "Over recent years, it's become much more acceptable to talk about mental health.

"It is now very acceptable for people, including men, to talk about their emotions and mental illness when there was a terrible stigma about it at that time.”

Dr Oliver Shanks was a consultant psychiatrist in learning disabilities with a special interest in forensic psychiatry from 1981 until 2001. 

His clinical load was always heavy, working in Muckamore Abbey Hospital and within the local communities most affected by the Troubles. 

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ''I would like to present my heartiest congratulations to both members in Northern Ireland who were recognised. Their honours are richly deserved.

“Dr Shanks is one of our most accomplished specialists in the field of learning disabilities.

“Dr McGarry’s contribution to mental health improvement of the community in Northern Ireland has been exemplary.”

Dr Richard Wilson, chair of RCPsych in NI, said: “I would like to commend both Dr McGarry and Dr Shanks for their significant achievements within psychiatry.

“Dr Shanks was a potent reforming force in the improvement of service quality in the psychiatry of learning disability. His humanity and active participation in encouraging the availability of psychological therapies for this group of patients was impressive and really, ahead of its time.

“Dr McGarry’s tenure of the chair of RCPsych NI oversaw significant growth of membership engagement and impact on mental health policy. His articulation of complex and challenging issues was always clear and leavened by his affable and down to earth approach.”