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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 19 October, 2018
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There is more than one apology due over the abysmal Kerry Babies saga

But one is all we’re likely to get.

20180116_132219 Source: TheJournal.ie

IT WAS THE bleakest of days in Cahersiveen.

The wind howled, snow and sleet pelted down mercilessly. It suited the day that was in it at the southern tip of Co Kerry.

It brought with it the news that Joanne Hayes had finally got redemption from her tormentors of so many years – An Garda Síochána.

The hastily scheduled press conference in the town’s Garda station had a touch of the theatrical about it. It was a mark in the sand – the force facing up to the ghosts of the past and admitting they’d gotten it wrong. Better late than never.

Forensic science has caught up with the original investigation, and the murdered baby ‘John’ now has a full DNA profile. That profile can, all things going to plan, be used to identify the baby’s parents.

The coming cold case investigation will be focused on the Cahersiveen and south Kerry areas – and Abbeydorney and Joanne Hayes will never again be mentioned.

File Photo: Garda 'cold case' unit to review Kerry Babies case. End Joanne Hayes, pictured in 1985 Source: RollingNews.ie

Superintendent in charge of the investigation Flor Murphy was keen to stress that fact. He appealed for anyone local with any knowledge of the grisly murder to come forward.

DNA Profile

Detective Chief Superintendent Walter O’Sullivan of the serious crime squad says the case has a good chance of drawing to a successful conclusion. When queried as to how the DNA profile may be utilised, he suggested that relying on existing genetic samples may not be necessary.

The press conference differed from other similar Garda set-pieces – there was no anniversary to feed off for one (the Kerry Babies went through that milestone after 30 years in 2014). No one in the locality had any idea a fresh investigation was in the offing. Surely, you would think, such a gambit wouldn’t have been made without a concrete endgame in sight.

You feel the investigating team have an idea of where they might start looking for a match.

But aside from the investigation, Murphy had one other point to make. He apologised to Joanne Hayes. And he expressed contrition for how long it has taken to deliver that apology.

Hayes was not the mother of the Cahersiveen baby, murdered in such a horrendous fashion in early April 1984 – that point is now indisputable.

The ludicrous idea of superfecundation – that Joanne had been made pregnant with twins by two different fathers within 24 hours – has finally been laid to rest. Let us never hear of it again.

If the idea of the press conference was to get the notice of the local residents, however, it seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Around the town, precious few seemed to be aware of the new investigation. And few can even recall the seismic events of 34 years ago. It’s understandable – for the rest of Ireland, the town still exists in that grim point of time in the mid-80s, the time of Ann Lovett, the time of the Kerry Babies. But generations passed and life in the locality went on. The original investigation spent precious little time focused on south Kerry anyway – once the gardaí were satisfied the perpetrator wasn’t a local, they set their sights on ‘women who were known to recently be pregnant’. And that’s how they happened upon Joanne Hayes, 50 miles away on her family’s farm.

“I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on,” one woman told TheJournal.ie. “I tune it out. I was only young when it happened sure.”

A local man, who was in secondary school when baby John’s body was discovered on White Strand beach all those years ago, said “maybe it’s better to let these things lie”.

“There’s enough hurt been caused.”

Justice

He acknowledged that the seeking of justice for a murdered child was something worth striving for however.

Another woman was more au fait with the situation.

“I was only one at the time. But it’s something that hangs over the place for sure. How could it not?” she said.

There’s a baby buried just up the road. He deserves justice. And someone around here knows something.

20180116_151015 Cahersiveen Source: TheJournal.ie

“Definitely,” an older colleague agreed absent-mindedly.

“If it can be solved, then it must be,” said the former.

Local councillor for Waterville Norma Moriarty speaks more openly on the subject, but remains guarded. She was nine years old in April 1984.

“The whole thing was tragic and awful, and what happened with the investigation was criminal in itself,” she said.

What was said at the time, at the tribunal, the words of the judge, I was actually shocked reading them back. It was outrageous given the evidence presented to them.

She hopes that the new investigation will have “greater sensitivity”. “That’s the essence of justice.”

Nevertheless, she’s a little nonplussed at the fresh turn of events.

“This all came out of the blue for us yesterday, no one was aware of any developments.”

It certainly wasn’t playing on the minds of people here either. But it’s important that the same mistakes aren’t made.

Is the apology enough?

“Only the Hayes family can answer that.”

The manner in which she was treated was the same as how many vulnerable people in this country have been treated by the authorities.
Now justice has to be served, it’s for all society’s benefit when it is.

So, we have a Garda apology, and a new investigation. And yet it’s hard to leave without a sour taste in your mouth after the day’s events.

20180116_164953 The N70 leading into the town Source: TheJournal.ie

Gravestone

Before the Garda conference, we paid a visit to baby John’s grave, in Holy Cross Graveyard, about a five-minute walk outside of town.

It’s not particularly easy to find. One simple headstone (that has been repeatedly vandalised in recent years – its original inscription, “I forgive”, is no longer to be seen on the latest incarnation), tucked away among so many others.

“I am the Kerry baby,” it reads.

There is so much justice that needs to be meted out in this case. How much better that justice will make anyone feel is another question.

You can’t imagine Joanne Hayes will take too kindly to having the whole sorry mess dragged up once more – she’s had 34 years of it. Flor Murphy says that as far as he knows, she has accepted the Garda apology.

But then 34 years ago the gardaí said that Joanne Hayes had murdered baby ‘John’ and thrown his body into the sea with the assistance of her family, an idea we now know to be scientifically impossible. So she may not set too much store by what the gardaí have to say.

The new investigation team seem a decent lot, sincere and committed to righting a dreadful wrong. Why was it they who made the apology? Why not the (acting) Garda Commissioner Donal Ó Cualáin?

There are many more apologies that could be made.

The members of the original investigating team could apologise for pushing the bizarre notion of superfecundation long after anyone with an iota of sense had dismissed it as hopelessly unlikely.

The Department of Justice could apologise for allowing the 1985 Lynch tribunal, which spent 82 days ostensibly investigating how the Dublin Garda Murder Squad had handled the investigation only to traumatise Hayes to within an inch of her life for having the temerity to embark on a liaison with a married man, to occur – we now know that then Minister for Justice Michael Noonan was aware prior to the Tribunal’s inception that the then Garda Commissioner Larry Wren considered his senior detectives to have been ‘grossly negligent’ in how they handled matters.

If Justice Kevin Lynch were still alive he might apologise to Hayes, for allowing her to be dragged through the mire beyond the point of all decency at his tribunal – for being ‘a woman to blame’ as journalist Nell McCafferty so aptly put it. “I wasn’t expecting a clap on the back, but I didn’t expect it to go as hard on me as it did,” Hayes told Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in October 1985, in a clip broadcast on RTÉ radio yesterday.

I thought it was very anti, very anti-women, not just anti-me. I was the underdog going in. I don’t think I could’ve won against the system.

Lynch might also apologise for completely exonerating the investigating gardaí of any wrongdoing with regard to the false murder charge brought (and subsequently dropped by the DPP) against Hayes. Lynch continued to serve as a judge until 1999. He died five years ago.

Maybe he would apologise if he could.

And all of the above could apologise to a newborn baby – umbilical cord cut, cleaned, stabbed 28 times, twice through the heart. A baby without a name except that which he was given when baptised post-mortem.

It was a death without dignity. But that indignity was nothing as compared to that bestowed by the utter hames made of his murder investigation.

Yes, there are many more apologies to be made. But you suspect this is the only one we’ll get.

Read: Kerry Babies: An unsolved murder 34 years after Ireland put ‘womanhood on trial’

Read: The Kerry Babies: Death, tragedy and scandal, 30 years on

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