Cabinet to consider compensation for Hayes over Kerry babies case

Minister for Justice to ask Government to consider options

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will ask the Cabinet to consider a number of options including how it can distance the State from the 1985 report of the tribunal into the Kerry babies case. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will ask the Cabinet to consider a number of options including how it can distance the State from the 1985 report of the tribunal into the Kerry babies case. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The Government will today consider the possibility of offering compensation to Joanne Hayes, the woman at the centre of the Kerry babies controversy.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will ask the Cabinet to consider a number of options including how it can distance the State from the 1985 report of the tribunal into the case.

A tribunal of inquiry established by the Oireachtas concluded that Ms 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 a second baby before killing him.

Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Mr Flanagan said he was eager to respect the request from the family for privacy but there were issues that must be addressed by the State.

While he acknowledged the official apology from the Garda and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to Ms Hayes, the Minister admitted the issue of compensation needed to be examined by the Government.

Among the options to be assessed include the appointment of a senior counsel to examine the tribunal’s findings to assess if any of them can be quashed or set aside. No decision is expected to be taken by the Cabinet today but Mr Flanagan is eager to bring the matter for a quick resolution.

Formal proposals

The Minister is assessing all the legal options with the office of the Attorney General and will bring a memo with formal proposals within weeks.

Ms Hayes received an apology from An Garda Síochána and the State last week about the botched investigation into the discovery of a baby’s remains on White Strand beach near Cahersiveen in April 1984.

She was wrongly charged with the murder of “Baby John”, who was found with 28 stab wounds, with Garda investigators suspecting the then 24-year-old from Abbeydorney, about 75km from White Strand, had given birth to the baby and killed him.

The inquiry chairman, Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, found 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.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he would be guided by the Minister for Justice on how to proceed but the Government was eager to protect the privacy of the Hayes family.

A number of Ministers told The Irish Times they believed the tribunal’s findings could not stand in light of the recent events.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan said the Government must appoint a retired judge or a senior counsel to reassess the tribunal’s findings in light of the evidence available.

Mr O’Callaghan said if it is found that the findings no longer stand, an order quashing those parts should be sought.

“The report was prepared because of public disquiet and it is important for the public that any findings contained in the report are accurate and based on reliable evidence.”