Tag Archives: Kerry Babies

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.

Michael Noonan

Bridget Cole: As minister for Health [December 1994 to June 1997], Michael Noonan refused to grant significant aid payments to victims of the Hepatitis C scandal and resisted Donegal mother Brigid McCole, who was forced to take court action for compensation but died before she could benefit.

Grace:  A mute child, Grace remained in a foster home with an abusive family for more than a decade after other children had been removed. In 1996, after the  Southern Health Board decided that Grace be removed, the foster father sent a letter lobbying then Minster for Health Michael Noonan. Grace was subsequently allowed to stay at the home for another 13 abusive years.

Joanne Hayes: As Minister for Justice [December 1982 to February 1986, Michael Noonan was aware prior to the Kerry babies Tribunal that Gardai would push a ‘superfecundation’ narrative against Joanne Hayes. He was also told, before the tribunal, by Garda Commissioner Larry Wren that his senior detectives had been “grossly negligent”.

Garry writes:

All women/kids/both. All extremely traumatic and vulnerable. All cases involving torture and death. Makes one wonder what sort of mission Noonan believed he was on?


Previously: ‘It Was I Who Was On Trial’

This morning.

Kerry Today on Radio Kerry.

In this morning’s programme we will bring you details of the Garda press conference in Caherciveen, which saw Gardai conclusively state that Joanne Hayes is not the mother of what was known as the Kerry baby, and issue an apology to her.

The press conference also appealed for information in relation to the death of the baby, found in Caherciveen in 1984, known as baby John.

Before we do that we are going to do something we don’t normally do as a current affairs programme – maybe even as a society – we are going to pause.

We are going to acknowledge:

The emotions and memories stirred by the words “The Kerry Babies” is something that cannot be understood in any other county, in any other place, other than right here in Kerry.

The rawness that is felt, undoubtedly by all those still involved, but also collectively in Kerry, by a people by a place. The instinct, even by many of our listeners yesterday to leave it all alone, to let it lie, to question what purpose could be served in dragging it all up again.

I was seven years old in 1984, yet like many others of my generation, as well as those older and probably younger on hearing the words the Kerry Babies there was a collectively flinching.

An involuntary instinct to pain.

Why because it is a memory of a painful time in this county.

But maybe after yesterday, the words can finally take on a different meaning.

Maybe when now spoken of the Kerry Babies in time will represent a turning point in our society.

In 1984 some institutions of the state sought to make a criminal case partly using a very available and powerful weapon at that time – shame.

But ultimately through the courage of Joanne Hayes and her family and the people of Abbeydorney – it began a process which we are still seeing now – where citizens speak their truth and the shame is placed where it deserves to lie – with institutions and individuals who abuse their power in the name of the state.

At best well intentioned Gardaí were found to have feet of clay, to have made mistakes in a desire to solve a child’s death – at worst it was a time when power was knowingly abused by others who placed their careers ahead of search for the truth.

Can any apology – and my experience of the Garda press conference yesterday is that apology is sincerely intentioned – given 34 years after an event make up for the trauma is caused and the shadows it cast on the Hayes family. Only they can know that, they have asked for and they deserve privacy at this time.

There may be other people listening to us this morning for whom the review of the case is causing huge and silent distress – I hope I speak for all our listeners when I say it is a different Kerry, it is a different time – and you find support waiting.

Yesterday also changed maybe for the first time “ The Kerry Babies” to where its focus should have always been to the Kerry Baby – to baby John found on White Strand in Caherciveen on April 14th 1984.

Baby John didn’t deserve the death he was given.

He didn’t deserve to be alone.

And Gardaí are now seeking help in his name.

A name that has been too long forgotten, and someone replaced by the name Hayes 34 years ago.

Baby John also deserves a voice, someone to speak up for him, someone to give him peace.

Yesterday we saw an unprecedented apology, we saw an organisation say sorry, maybe The Kerry Babies legacy should teach all of us to have the courage to admit when we are wrong.

Maybe it can help create an Ireland where we seek answers before we allocate blame, we can be mature enough to understand rather than judge, and to support rather than sacrifice.

Radio Kerry wasn’t on air in 1984, but since we came on air in 1990 we have sought to be means by which the people of Kerry tell their own story, in their own words.

Maybe now in Kerry and beyond the Kerry babies case can stand for something else.

Radio Kerry broadcaster Jerry O’Sullivan this morning

Radio Kerry

Earlier: It Was I Who Went On Trial

“Two more detectives from Dublin came in. They were roaring, shouting and one of them slapped me across the face twice. I was crying the whole time. They really frightened me.”

Further to yesterday’s apology from An Garda Siochana to Joanne Hayes for the “stress” caused to her over the Kerry Babies case.

The above is taken from a clip of Ms Hayes speaking to RTE in 1985.

The footage was played on RTE’s Six One last night.

RTE’s Six One also played a clip from an interview Ms Hayes had with Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in 1985:

Gay Byrne: “Did you not expect the tribunal to find as it did?”

Joanne Hayes:I didn’t expect a clap on the back but I didn’t expect they’d go so hard on me. After all, the tribunal was set up to look into the behaviour of the gardai but it was I who went on trial.”

And finally.

On last night’s Prime Time.

Dr Vicky Conway, an associate professor at Dublin City University’s School of Law and Government, and historian Diarmaid Ferriter discussed the Kerry Babies Tribunal.

Dr Conway said:

“Let’s not forget whether it was when she was being interviewed or the tribunal itself, she had just lost a child. This woman was grieving the loss of a child.

“And that was never really acknowledged in the tribunal.

“…when you read the reports and the transcripts of the tribunal, this was all about establishing Joanne as a liar, as a seductress, as a temptress

“…one of the things that gets lost as well, despite the State pathologist saying that Joanne did not kill her own child, Mr Justice Kevin Lynch ruled that she did. He says that she choked her child and hit it over the head with a bath brush and there is no evidence to support that.

“And yet she has to live with the fact that a judge said that about her, that she killed her child when she did not.”

Watch RTE’s Six One and Prime Time back in full here

Irish Feminist Judgment Project: Kerry Babies case (Vicky Conway, Academia.edu)

Yesterday: Thirty Four Years Later



Joanne Hayes at the Kerry Babies Tribunal in 1985

“It is a matter of significant regret for An Garda Síochána that it has taken such a long time for it to be confirmed that Ms Hayes is not the mother of Baby John

On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Hayes for that, as well as the awful stress and pain she has been put through as a result of the original investigation into this matter, which fell well short of the required standards.”

Garda Superintendent Flor Murphy, this afternoon

Baby John’s body was found at White Strand in Cahersiveen, County Kerry on 14 April, 1984 with multiple injuries and had died from stab wounds. The discovery of the body of a second baby on a farm near Abbeydorney outside Tralee, led to a tribunal of inquiry.

Gardaí arrested Joanne on the grounds that she had been pregnant by two different men and gave birth to both babies.

Gardaí apologise to Joanne Hayes for stress and pain over Kerry Babies case (RTÉ)

Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews