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Joanne Hayes and family ask court to declare Kerry Babies Tribunal findings were unfounded and incorrect

The matter will return before the court next week.

File photo of Joanne Hayes in 1985
File photo of Joanne Hayes in 1985
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

JOANNE HAYES, THE woman who was wrongly accused of murdering an infant over 35 years ago, and her siblings want the High Court to declare that all findings or wrongdoing made against them by the Tribunal into the Kerry Babies case were unfounded and incorrect.

Hayes, and her siblings Edmund, Kathleen and Michael Hayes seek the declarations in a bid to finalise matters relating to events during the mid 1980s and would vindicate the family’s good name.

In 1984 she, and members of her family, were arrested by gardaí following the discovery of a newborn baby with multiple stab wounds found in Cahersiveen, in South Kerry, some 80km from Ms Hayes’ home in Abbeydorney in north Kerry.

The parents of that child, called baby John, have never been identified, nor has his killer.
She was accused of being the mother of baby John and murdering him. Her family were accused of concealing the birth of a child.

Following their arrest in May 1984, Ms Hayes and her family say that following wrongful acts committed by gardaí they were forced into making false confessions admitting the killing of baby John, which they later withdrew.

The charges of which they were all innocent of were dropped in October 1984. Ms Hayes had given birth to a baby boy, named Shane, on 13 April 1984 on the family farm but that child died and was buried on the family farm.

She claims that a proper investigation of the matter by gardaí would have eliminated her and her family as persons of interest.

Their arrest and interrogation, and charge were improper after a blood test in May 1984 made it clear that she was not the mother of baby John.

She was also at one point of the investigation accused by gardaí of having given birth to twins, which she says used for the purpose of malicious and continued prosecution of them before the tribunal.

Tribunal

A Tribunal of inquiry, known as the Kerry Babies Tribunal conducted by the then Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, was established and heard in late 1984 early 1985.

Ms Hayes and her family say the report contained numerous findings against them that were untrue, unfounded, not supported by any evidence, and were purely speculative.

The findings against them include that Ms Hayes had assaulted her newborn son with a bath brush, and choked him to death.

This finding was completely unsubstantiated and was made despite the fact that the former State Pathologist Dr John Harbison, who performed an autopsy was unable to determine the cause of Shane’s death.

The Tribunal also wrongly found, they claim, that the Hayes family lied to the tribunal, that they were involved in an attempted cover up regarding Shane’s death and had lied to and made false allegations against gardaí.

The tribunal also inferred, without an explanation that the false confessions made by the Hayes family arose out of a guilty conscience. The family say there was no basis for these findings.

She also claims that during the court of the hearing the tribunal showed bias and a lack of fair procedures by allowing gardaí to imply she was “promiscuous”, “a woman of loose morals”, make unfounded statements about her relationship with Jeremiah Locke, her former partner, and about her sexual history.

One inappropriate analogy that the Tribunal allowed to be used was an argument that Joanne Hayes had given birth to twins by two different fathers, in circumstances where other parties’ medical experts said was baseless.

The tribunal also showed bias when it permitted the public airing of testimony by medical experts about Ms Hayes private health and gynaecological details, when it had a power to do so in private.

During the tribunal it is claimed that gardaí took false and unjustifiable positions by stating that none of the Hayes family were stressed or upset during their interrogations, and that the questioning was unrelated to baby John but rather Ms Hayes’ own pregnancy.

Apology

In 2018 Ms Hayes from Tralee in Co Kerry received apologies over her treatment from both the then Taoiseach, and current Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on behalf of the State, and the then acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin.

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The siblings have brought High Court proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General where she seeks various declarations and sought damages.

They seek declarations the investigation, as well as her questioning, arrest, charge and prosecution on dates between April and October 1984 were unfounded and in breach of her constitutional rights.

She also seeks a declaration that any finding of wrongdoing contained in the 1985 report of the Tribunal inquiry into the Kerry Babies Case are unfounded and incorrect and was in breach of her constitutional rights.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds at the High Court this afternoon.

Liam Reidy SC for Ms Hayes said the application was being made as part of ongoing discussions between the family and the State defendants.

If the declarations are made by the court then the defendants have agreed to prominently attach said orders to all copies of the report of the 1985 Tribunal of Inquiry, the court heard.

The judge granted the siblings’ lawyers permission to serve short notice of the motions where the Hayes siblings seek the formal declarations.

The matter will return before the court next week.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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