Shane Dunphy (born 18 January 1973) is a child protection expert, author, journalist, musician, broadcaster and teacher. He is married to Deirdre Wickham, has two children and is also a proud Grandad. He worked as a child and social care worker throughout Ireland for fifteen years, and still practices on a consultancy basis. He is currently Head of the Social Care Department at Waterford College of Further Education.
Shane is best known for a series of books detailing cases he was involved in, both as a social care worker and journalist.
He is a regular contributor for the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner newspapers, and for several years had a weekly column in the Wexford Echo. He has been the Childcare Expert for the Irish Sun newspaper, has written investigative and opinion columns for the Sunday Tribune and the Sunday World. He presented the Morning Mix Show on South East Radio from 2009 until 2010 and is a respected commentator on child-protection issues across the national and international media. Most recently he worked as a columnist for The Journal, a popular online newspaper, writing on child protection and parenting.
He has made documentaries for both RTE television and radio, including ‘My Mother’s Dying Secret’ for RTE 1’s Would You Believe series, and ‘Yola: Lost For Words’ and ‘The Sinking of the St Patrick’ for Radio One’s Documentary on One. His documentary ‘Tusk – Hunting for Ireland’s Wild Boar’ was nominated for a New York Radio award, and ‘Fantastic Beasts and the People Who Love Them’ was featured as a question on the Irish Leaving Certificate exam in 2018.
Diploma in applied social studies
Bachelor’s degree in social care
Master’s Degree in Sociology
Qualifications achieved at Waterford Institute of Technology and National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
SOCIAL CARE PRACTICE
Dunphy took a lengthy and circuitous route through the social care profession, beginning his career working on a voluntary basis in a day care unit for adults with intellectual disabilities before he had even completed secondary school. While at college he was offered relief work in a residential care unit for teenagers as well as ongoing work in a psychiatric outpatients unit. Once qualified, Dunphy has described working for several years in residential care before returning to college to improve his qualifications, and also of moving regularly. He has worked in residential care, the early years sector, as a community childcare worker, a community arts worker and a youth worker. Although he was employed for a short time by a local authority as a social worker for the Travelling Community, he has never claimed to be a social worker, nor has he ever been a member of the Irish Association of Social Workers (something the IASW has been at pains to point out). “I respect what social workers do, and I continue to be friends with many of them, but I made the decision early in my career that I am a child care worker, and I am proud of that,” he says. Dunphy continues to practice on a consultancy basis.
While he is best known as an Analysis writer on child protection issues, Dunphy’s journalism has covered an eclectic range of material, and he has worked for a broad cross section of newspapers. He is best known as an Op Ed writer for the Irish Independent, where he has penned incisive articles on the Bertie Ahern government and cutting indictments of the public sector. He won much acclaim for a series of articles highlighting flaws in the child care industry, particularly the early years sector.
He covered the Madeleine McCann story from its tragic beginning, and was contacted during the investigation by a named informant who claimed to have information on the child’s whereabouts. Dunphy passed the details on to Interpol.
Shane has written a great deal about the Travelling community and its various problems and issues,culminating in an article on May 9, 2009 in which he suggested, after a riot involving Travellers in a Dublin suburb, that the Travelling Community should begin sorting out their problems from within, something that caused Paavee Point, the Irish Traveller lobbying group, to condemn his stance, suggesting that he was ‘perpetuating stereotypes’. This row culminated in the Irish Association of Social Workers, issuing a public statement disowning him. Shane has commented that he found the entire thing more amusing than upsetting.
Dunphy wrote a series of investigative pieces for The Sunday World under the banner ‘Stories From the Peripheries’, covering issues such as people trafficking, child prostitution, elder abuse and the rights of people with disabilities. His time at the paper resulted in a friendship and enduring association with crime journalist Paul Williams.
Shane has written columns for The Irish Sun on Sunday and contributes regularly to the Sunday Independent.
Most recently Shane spent a year working as a columnist for The Journal.ie, covering topics as wide-ranging as the Michael Jackson documentaries, the Jamie Bolger case, internet safety and home-schooling.
His pieces combine Opinion and research, as well as his by now trademark brand of autobiographical comment.
Dunphy is a multi-instrumentalist, performing live regularly. He plays mostly stringed instruments, favouring the mandocello and tenor banjo, but he is proficient on the guitar, autoharp, mandolin and ukulele. He often plays harmonica, which he plays using a neck harness.
Shane admits to being ‘functional’ on the piano, and is a good (if not gifted) drummer. His choice of music is eclectic, moving from acoustic folk of Irish, English, Scottish and American origin to blues to jazz and even classical. His regular musical partner, Kevin MacDermott, a native of County Cavan and a virtuoso three row accordion player, percussionist and story-teller, tends to provide the instrumental pieces while Dunphy focusses on songs.
Shane also collaborates with Wexford uileann piper Brendan Wickham.
Dunphy sings with a mid-range tenor voice. He credits Woody Guthrie, Bryan Bowers, Bert Jansch and Andy Irvine as influences. Music features strongly in Dunphy’s books – he regularly writes about playing music for the children he works with, or attending sessions. Music is also prominent in his media work – his choices of instrumental mood pieces, often from unusual or little known sources like Anne Briggs or Sean Tyrrell – have garnered comment. In 2014 he composed and performed the musical soundtrack to TV3’s ‘The Island’, a programme exploring Ireland’s coastline.
Shane has, since 2019, begun recording a new series of True Crime Audiobooks, entitled Stories From the Margins, which he narrates and in which he also performs original songs and music.
Dunphy is a regular face and voice on television and radio in Ireland, mostly commenting on child protection issues, but often simply on the stories of the day. He has been a guest on the hugely influential ‘Late Late Show’ four times, although never with the current incumbent, Ryan Tubridy,despite having been a regular contributor to Tubridy’s Radio 1 programme.
He had a regular slot on the short lived ‘Daily Show’ with Daithi O Shea and Claire Byrne. On TV3 he has had many appearances on Ireland AM, on Vincent Browne Tonight and, before its current all-female lineup, on the Midday Show. He was one of the main contributors to TV3’s landmark, award-winning series Lawless Ireland, a series which continues to be aired to high ratings several years after it was made.
In 2011 he made ‘My Mother’s Dying Secret’ for the Would You Believe series, a deeply personal documentary about his mother, Noel Dunphy’s life before her marriage to Dunphy’s father.
Dunphy’s radio work has garnered much praise. He has had a long-standing relationship with Newstalk, filling in for Brenda Power on the Your Talk Show on several occasions, and making regular appearances on Sean Moncrieff’s programme and George Hook’s show. In 2009 Shane Dunphy and his regular collaborator Orla Rapple made the moving documentary series ‘Stories from the Margins’ (a title he would return to), which was broadcast on Newstalk. He is currently a regular on both ‘The Hard Shoulder’, with Ivan Yeats, and Lunchtime Live with Ciara Kelly.
On RTE Dunphy was a familiar voice on Gerry Ryan’s show before that presenter’s untimely death – Ryan was a tireless promoter of Dunphy’s books. On RTE Radio 1 Dunphy has made regular contributions to Mary Wilson’s Drivetime slot, and has, in recent years, become a major producer for the Documentary on 1, making programmes also for the short programme series The Curious Ear. Dunphy’s documentary work is sociologically based, examining stories that have rarely been heard, uncovering truths that have often been long buried. ‘Yola – Lost for Words’, produced with Orla Rapple, dealt with a lost community and ‘The Sinking of the St Patrick’, made with his wife, Deirdre Wickham, told the story of the bombing of a passenger ferry during WWII. Bizarrely Dunphy also made ‘Breaded or Battered: The Wexford Rissole’, a short documentary on a kind of potato cake peculiar to Wexford, his home town. In 2013 he made ‘Tusk: Hunting for Ireland’s Wild Board’, a programme about the reintroduction of Wild Boar into the Irish landscape, and in 2014 he produced ‘Fantastic Beasts and The People Who Love Them’, a programme exploring the world of cryptozoology (the hunt for mythological beasts).
From June 2009 to May 2010 Dunphy presented The Morning Mix, a daily chat show on Wexford’s South East Radio. The show did extremely well in Ireland’s JNLR (listener figures) ratings, establishing a blend of easy-going debate about everything from politics to films to cookery.
Shane has written much academic work, and continues to teach in the field of child- and social-care. He has written articles for the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies, and in recent years a series of pieces on childcare theory for Childcare.ie, the Irish early years magazine.
His Masters degree is in sociology, but he has done research in applied social psychology also.
Dunphy has taught in WIT and St Patrick’s College, Carlow. He currently teaches at Waterford College of Further Education, where he is head of the Social Care Department.
Shane writes both narrative non-fiction and crime fiction.
His non-fiction books combine autobiographical detail with in-depth discussion of case work, following the complexities, triumphs, challenges and defeats of child protection work as it is done on a day-to-day basis.
His fiction is terse, character driven, and has been praised for its originality and refusal to conform to one genre, although Shane describes it as ‘broadly crime fiction’.
You’ll find detailed descriptions of each of Shane’s books elsewhere on this site, but here is a list of his publications:
The Wednesday’s Child Series (non-fiction)
Wednesday’s Child (2006)
Crying in the Dark (also published as Last Ditch House) (2007)
Hush Little Baby (2008)
The Boy in the Cupboard (2008)
Will Mummy be Coming Back for Me (2009)
Little Boy Lost (2010)
The Girl Who Couldn’t Smile (2012)
The Girl From Yesterday (2014)
The Boy They Tried to Hide (2016)
Stories From the Margins (non-fiction)
Shane is currently writing a new series of non-fiction titles, which will all be released as ‘audio-first’, meaning they will only be available as audibooks for the first six months or so of their release, but will then be published as ebooks and in paperback. Shane narrates the audiobooks and has composed and performs original songs and music as part of the audio package.
These books are:
Bleak Alley (2019)
The Bad Place (to be released in September 2020)
Ceremony For the Dead (to be released in February 2021)
Shane will share more information as he has it.
Ghost Writing (non-fiction)
Shane has also ghost-written a book with a survivor of familial sexual abuse.
Running From the Shadows (Stephanie Hickey with Shane Dunphy) (2019)
Shane has been approached to ghost-write another book with a high-profile survivor of abuse, and he will share the details of this as he has them.
The Dunnigan Series (Crime Fiction)
Shane has written what he calls ‘a trilogy in 4 parts’ featuring the emotionally damaged Irish criminologist, David Dunnigan. The novels focus on Dunnigan’s hunt for his niece, Beth, who is abducted in 1998 while in his care.
These novels are:
After She Vanished (2017)
When She Was Gone (2018)
If She Returned (2019)
Why She Ran (2020)
DUNPHY AS A CHARACTER IN THE BOOKS
The author himself is the central character in both the Wednesday’s Child series and Stories From the Margins. Dunphy does not try to depict himself as a hero or as someone who is infallible. In some instances he makes mistakes, comes off as rude or narrow-minded, and many cases do not end well, sometimes directly because of his intervention. His personality is portrayed as emotional, impulsive, self-contained and occasionally arrogant.
His dedication to the children and families he serves is total, but this often puts him at loggerheads with other professionals, and he often disregards advice and the opinions of others. Through the books we learn that he is a caffeine addict, smoked (he gives it up in The Girl Who Couldn’t Smile), enjoys music, but particularly folk and blues, reads a lot, but favours crime novels, can cook very well, has dogs (in the final three books in the Wednesday’s Child series he has a greyhound called Millie, and in Stories From the Margins two terrier mixes, George and Lulu) and has moved around a lot, living in various locations for short periods of time.