Government to consider position on Kerry babies tribunal findings

Discredited 1985 report still official State position on Joanne Hayes case

Kerry babies: one option might be for the Cabinet to abandon the tribunal’s findings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Kerry babies: one option might be for the Cabinet to abandon the tribunal’s findings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Government is to consider how it can distance the State from the report of the tribunal into the Kerry babies case.

In 1985 the tribunal concluded that Joanne Hayes had killed her baby after giving birth at the family farm in April 1984, and largely rejected allegations of wrongdoing against investigating gardaí, who had also accused her of having given birth to and then killed a second baby. Its body had been found two days later on a beach near Cahersiveen, 75km away.

Ms Hayes denied killing her baby, and forensic evidence did not support the damning verdict of the tribunal’s chairman, Mr Justice Kevin Lynch.. The Garda case against Ms Hayes fell apart within days of her being charged with the murder of the Cahersiveen baby, as blood-type evidence showed she was not its mother, despite her confession to gardaí.

Her innocence was reconfirmed late last year by DNA evidence disclosed last week, which led to a Garda Síochána apology to Ms Hayes that was repeated on behalf of the State by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Despite these apologies the report of the tribunal remains the official record of the case, and what it says about the Hayes family remains the official position of the State.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan yesterday said he would bring a proposal to the Cabinet on Tuesday in the hope of enabling the Government and State to put some distance between themselves and the report. “I’m considering options,” he told The Irish Times, “but [there’s] no appetite for any form of reopening [of the case] . . . The Hayes family just want peace and quiet.”

It is understood the advice of the Attorney General will be sought, but “legally there is not a mechanism for a tribunal report to either be set aside by the Government or for any additional conclusion to be added”, said one barrister. “Government does not have the power to interfere with a tribunal in that way.”

Mr Flanagan said one option might be for the Cabinet to resile, or abandon, the judge’s findings. “A form of ‘resiling’ is better than ‘rejecting’ or ‘withdrawing’.”

Mr Justice Lynch responded to Hayes family assertions that Garda pressure and ill treatment made them confess to crimes they could not possibly have committed by stating that detectives on the case were not barefaced liars, “as regrettably is the case with members of the Hayes family”.

He found the gardaí guilty only of exaggeration “or a gilding of the lily, or wishful thinking elevated to the status of fact”. It would be monstrous to think otherwise of the detectives, he declared.

Two of three senior gardaí involved in interrogating Ms Hayes, her two brothers, her mother and her aunt are dead. A third, the former detective sergeant Gerry O’Carroll, said last week that he would not accept Ms Hayes was not the mother of the Cahersiveen baby until both it and Ms Hayes’s own baby were exhumed and new DNA tests carried out.