State will compensate and apologise to Joanne Hayes over Kerry babies case

Hayes wrongly accused of murdering baby found on Kerry beach more than 35 years ago

Joanne Hayes picutred at the Kerry babies tribunal tribunal in 1985. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Joanne Hayes picutred at the Kerry babies tribunal tribunal in 1985. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

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The State will on Friday officially apologise and award substantial compensation to Joanne Hayes, who was wrongly accused of murdering a baby found on a beach more than 35 years ago, in what is known as the Kerry babies scandal.

It is believed Ms Hayes will share in a €2.5 million damages pay out, along with her siblings Edmund, Kathleen and Michael Hayes, as well as her daughter Yvonne McGuckin.

The family launched legal proceedings against the State last year, asking the High Court to declare all findings of wrongdoing made against them by a tribunal as unfounded and incorrect.

The State apology will be read out in the High Court in Dublin. The Hayes family will not be there because of Covid-19 restrictions, and a desire for privacy.

Intensely private and protected by her neighbours, Ms Hayes has rarely spoken publicly about her decades-long ordeal.

Along with other members of her family, she was questioned in May 1984 by gardaí following the discovery of a new born boy – called baby John – with multiple stab wounds on White Strand, near Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, on April 14th, 1984.

Ms Hayes, who was single, was accused of being baby John’s mother and of murdering him. Her family were accused of concealing the birth of a child.

The charges were dropped in October 1984.

Neither the parents nor the killer of the baby have ever been identified.

Around the same time baby John was discovered, Ms Hayes, from Abbeydorney – almost 80 km away from Cahirsiveen – had given birth to a baby, Shane, who was either still-born or died soon after birth and was buried on the family farm.

Despite the two babies having different blood groups, gardaí alleged they were twins.

Tests carried out in 2018 using DNA technology concluded the baby found in Cahersiveen could not have been Ms Hayes’s.

Then taoiseach Leo Varadkar and An Garda Síochána have since issued official apologies to Ms Hayes and her family.

Legal proceedings

Last year, the family started legal proceedings for damages in the High Court against the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Minister for Justice, the Attorney General, and the State.

Months of mediation over a settlement has been finalised, with the Kerry Eye newspaper reporting Ms Hayes will receive €1.5 million, while her three siblings will each get €300,000.

Ms Hayes’ daughter, Ms McGuckin, who was a toddler at the time of the scandal, is to get a reported €100,000.

The Hayes family are also asking the High Court to declare all findings of wrongdoing made against them by a Tribunal of Inquiry during the 1980s – known as the Kerry babies Tribunal – as unfounded and incorrect.

Neither the parents nor the killer of baby John have ever been identified.

Two years ago, the Garda began a full murder inquiry with house to house inquiries on Valentia Island, after issuing a letter of apology to Ms Hayes.