Kerry Babies tribunal transcripts ‘not to be released’

Department of Justice says privacy of Joanne Hayes ‘paramount’ in retention of files

Transcripts of the Kerry Babies tribunal are to be withheld from the National Archives to avoid further upset and distress to Joanne Hayes (pictured) and her family. Photograph: Peter Thursfield.

Transcripts of the Kerry Babies tribunal are to be withheld from the National Archives to avoid further upset and distress to Joanne Hayes (pictured) and her family. Photograph: Peter Thursfield.

 

The Department of Justice has confirmed that transcripts of the Kerry Babies tribunal are to be withheld from the National Archives to avoid further upset and distress to Joanne Hayes and her family.

A spokesman for Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he and his officials had been in touch with representatives of the Hayes family and “are still trying to work out the most sensitive way of dealing with matters”.

The spokesman could not say for how long the documents would be withheld from public availability.

Ms Hayes was wrongfully accused of giving birth to and murdering a baby discovered on Cahersiveen strand in Co Kerry in 1984 and the following year a tribunal was established to examine why she and members of her family were forced to make false confessions of involvement in the baby’s death.

The transcripts detail the full cross-examination by counsel for An Garda Síochána of Ms Hayes including intense questioning about her private life.

The Garda cold case unit, which looks at unsolved murder cases, is conducting a new investigation into the 1984 murder of “Baby John” and has also “requested that the department retain the transcripts in full, as they may need to refer to details in the transcripts as part of their ongoing investigations”.

Distress

Official documents from Government departments and State agencies are currently released to the National Archives after three decades and the transcripts would have been due for release in 2015. But under the 1986 National Archives Act a department can refuse to release papers in circumstances where the release of the files would or might cause distress to living persons.

The department said “we consider the privacy of Ms Joanne Hayes to be paramount in any consideration relation to the release of these transcripts”.

“It is quite evident from conversations with Ms Hayes’s representatives that the release of the transcripts would cause her considerable distress. In all the circumstances, the department is not in a position at this time to grant access to the files.”

Confirmation that the transcripts would not be released follows a request for the documents by the Sunday Independent.

Last month the cold case team confirmed that new DNA tests proved Ms Hayes was not Baby John’s mother. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologised to Ms Hayes and her family for her treatment in 1984 and 1985 at the hands of the State and acknowledged that she should be compensated.

The Minister’s spokesman reiterated that Ms Hayes and her family had made it clear through their representatives that they did not want another tribunal.

The department “will continue to engage with the National Archives to ensure that Ms Hayes’s request for privacy can be respected and that An Garda Síochána can be facilitated with access to the transcripts to assist them in their inquiries”.