Throwing The Book At Them


From top: Cover and inleaf of ‘Dark Secrets: The Inside Story of Joanne Hayes and the Kerry Babies‘ (published by The Kerryman, 1985) by Gerard Colleran and Michael O’Regan (edited by Gerard O’Regan)

Further to the Gardai apology to Joanne Hayes, the woman at the centre of the Kerry Babies scandal…

Dan Dowling writes:

In 1985, Gerard Colleran and Michael O’Regan co-authored the book ‘Dark Secrets: The Inside Story of Joanne Hayes and the Kerry Babies‘.

The hero of this book is Detective Sergeant Gerard O’Carroll.

The first reference to a guard is on page 27:

”Liam Moloney, a dark haired, handsome garda, from Mitchelstown, County Cork, a popular figure along with his wife Bridget and a ‘local guard’.”

Meanwhile, Locke the father of Joanne’s baby is:

“a low-sized, bushy-haired, native of Tralee.”

Chapter Three is titled “Garda Morale in Kerry”

At the time two Gardaí have been apprehended for assault; Tom O’Callaghan and Con Sullivan, a minister Sean Doherty had crashed a car after the Listowel Races with rumours the minister was drunk and driving with a well-known singer, a Sergeant John Reddington has forced people to build his house outside Ballyduff and five hundred people in Ballyduff marched and demanded he get out.

Morale was indeed low needed a break and an unsolved murder would have made things even more unbearable for “the force”

Chapter Seven ends:

“On the night of April 30, Gardai toasted chief superintendent John Doyle at a party in his office at the Tralee station. Doyle was leaving to move on transfer to Dublin as part of a number of changes at senior level which affected the Kerry division about that time. The Gardaí enjoyed themselves at the party. On the morning of May 1st , Tralee District Superinetendent Donal O’Sullivan presides over a Garda station that was a hive of activity” (p79).

This is how the book first refers to the night that the Hayes family were interrogated.

Chapter Eight is titled: “Courtney and his Men”.

“When he arrived in Tralee to investigate the murder of the Caherciveen baby John Courtney was perhaps our best known policeman”

“The murder squad were an élite group which tended to attract a particular type of personality lured by its glamour and the opportunity to get involved in high profile police work.”

“One of the more energetic members of “the triumvirate” of murder squad gardaí was Detective-Sergent Gerard O’Carroll, he did particularly well in his leaving cert, one of his brothers was a highly-rated neurosurgeon.” (p87-88)

“Like his boss he had sampled the nether regions of humanity”

Referring to a case Gerry solved by using the power of prayer:

“By 6am one of the country’s most notorious murders had effictively been solved. It had involved a subtle, but at the same time brilliantly orchestrated, piece of police psychology. But for ever more Detective-Sergeant O’Carroll would remain convinced that, in the dead hours of the night, he had been alone for a time with evil incarnate.”

Less flamboyant than O’Carroll was Detective-Sergeant Joseph Shelly:

“well spoken, a considerable presence, his ability within the force had been recognised at age 32. he looked forward to excellent career prospects, always well dressed , he spoke to the Tribunal in a pin-striped suit.”

Detective PJ Browne had a friendly “friar tuck” like appearance, “” I can express myself if you give me a pen” he once remarked.

As Courtney drove to Kerry he “carried his mantle of controversy with ease”

The Hayes family aren’t described like this:

Chapter Three “Home from Malaya” Joanne Hayes’ Auntie Bridie Fuller is introduced as having had an affair with a man when she was in Kuala Lumpur in 1947 and she is described as an incurable alcoholic.(p32).

Mike Hayes is introduced as the least intelligent member of the family, (p107) .Bridie is disheveled in court (p116).

Colleran or O’Regan or both introduce “Joanne’s subconscious” (P.42), having sex made her feel guilt when walking back to the bosom of her family and so on.The family aren’t helping out on the farm, The Hayes’s spend their time signing on the dole (p.98). Their kitchen is gloomy (p102)

More importantly the interrogation of Joanne Hayes and her family previously described as a hive of activity involved slaps shouting threats, being offered a newspaper on the floor to vomit on, Joanne being refused her right to leave the station despite not being arrested, her being pulled onto Detective Browne’s lap, the gardaí refusing to search the location of her baby on the family farm to check was she telling the truth.

…The gardaí producing a knife, a bath brush and a turf bag and telling her she used these to kill her baby and that her family had helped.

…Gardaí lying about matching blood samples and threatening that if Joanne didn’t confess her mother was going to jail and her baby was going to an orphanage, Garda O’Carroll whooping and hollering and saying he had cracked it” (P179,P173, P175,p178)

The description of Joanne’s trial is torturous to read and as well known as her mistreatment by the Gardaí. Colleran and O’Regan describe the legal teams in Rumpole of the Bailey terms, vigorous, colorful, flourishing, “he called out for The Observer” he “wore gold rimmed glasses” and on and on.

It is all drivel, all unjustified, the opposite of the calling to afflict the comfort and comfort the afflicted.

Dan Dowling is a Broadsheet reader from Tralee, County Kerry

Dan Dowling (Facebook)

Previously: It Was I Who Went On Trial


Dan writes

I added 28 screenshots from the book to the Facebook page (above), more of the same.

Meanwhile (below) is the book’s epilogue…


Now it all seemed such a long time ago – that time of her all-consuming love for a man she so often referred to as Jer. But in the cold light of enforced retrospection, Joanne Hayes realised something which at one time she would have regarded as impossible. She did not love Jeremiah Locke anymore.

Furthermore, the death of this love, mixed with a deep sense of rejection, and her old feelings of isolation, had given rise to an entirely new emotion. She felt betrayed.

That sense of betrayal would develop into other feelings, such as anger and resentment, coupled at times with a feeling of simply being used.

Joanne believed that Jeremiah had failed to protect her dignity during the Tribunal. What did those gifts they had exchanged now symbolise… the gold bracelet he had bought for her and the sweater she had bought for him?

Whatever she may or may not have done, Joanne Hayes could legitimately feel aggrieved by the tone, language and certain conclusions in Mr. Justice Lynch’s report.

For example, on the flimsiest of evidence he denigrated her relationship with Jeremiah Locke to little more than the inane infatuation of a young woman with a man who was only interested in sexual gratification. If the logic and assumptions of the judge were applied to contemporary Irish society regarding affairs of the heart it would represent a return to the repressive sexual norms which have so damaged this country for so long.

Only in a sense is it all over. Some questions have been satisfactorily answered. Others, of course, will never be. On central level, clear cut conclusions about many aspects of the Kerry babies affair are as hazardous as ever.

Yet there is one dominant feeling. It is that this story is above all else, an insight into a group of people- the Hayes family, the Gardaí and others- all of whom are unnecessary victims. Victims of what is the question to be answered.

But is this a fair conclusion? For example, would a different society with an alternative sexual culture have orchestrated things in a different way, or must there always be that certain inevitability around our Irish tragedies?

Perhaps, some of those nouveau riche mentioned at the outset of this book might try and rationalise the story as essentially expressive of rural life.

Yet, at its very core, the story of the Kerry babies is surely a reflection of much that is wrong with the very soul of Ireland in both town and country.

It was Dermot McCarthy, representing the Hayes family, who in the course of the Tribunal suggested there may have been a “dark secret” which could be leading the family to behave in a certain manner.

Many of the mysteries of the Kerry Babies drama remain. Perhaps it is a story from which there can be no ultimate truth. However, if one travels to those quiet roadways which lead to places like Abbeydorney and Caherciveen in the gloom of an evening the almost mystical reality of what it was all about may become clear.

It is that not quite tangible wayward spirit which is so much part of the Irish strength and the Irish nightmare.

If the truth be told, it is the well from which springs nearly all our dark secrets.

Dark….dark secrets, indeed….

From Dark Secrets: The Inside Story Of The Kerry Babies.

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16 thoughts on “Throwing The Book At Them

  1. Drebbin

    “Like his boss he had sampled the nether regions of humanity” makes him sound like a keen anilinguist.


        Id love if some of those garda had never darkened the force

        at least now, 32 years later thank feck its all changed!?!

  2. Andrew

    “well spoken, a considerable presence, his ability within the force had been recognised at age 32. he looked forward to excellent career prospects, always well dressed , he spoke to the Tribunal in a pin-striped suit.”

    He had an ability alright did detective Shelly.
    Detective Shelley was promoted and popped up in several other places since

  3. Sir Adolf Von Bratwurst

    I worked in Kerry’s eye nearly 20 years ago and a relative of joanne hayes worked there too. Now Colleran is the editor. He and O’Regan have changed their tune.

  4. Frilly Keane

    Ger Colleran huh.

    Just wondering,
    Will the authors be offering apologies to Joanne and her family too?

    BTW, thanks Dan

  5. Peter

    The book was edited by Gerry O Regan who went on to be editor of the Indo.
    You can understand now why the INM MD Stephen Rae has been chosen to root out fake news.
    And he’s from Kerry too!

      1. Andrew

        Not editor of the Star anymore though. He’s back with The Kerryman; as mentioned in a previous comment.

    1. realPolithicks

      I heard Michael O’Regan on Marian Finucanes show yesterday, he was singing a different tune, decrying the “awful” treatment that Joanne Hayes received at the tribunal…Gas isn’t it.

  6. Eamonn j

    Fascinating and a great find. I’d scan every page and send a copy to every paper and radio station and TV station, it’s gold

  7. the bottler

    Also listened to Michael O’Regan on Marian Finucanes show yesterday. The media sided with the Gardai and the legal establishment during the crucifixion of Ms Hayes. O’Regan tried to give the impression he was appalled at the time – he is now an established go to media figure very much on the inside.

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