Joanne Hayes and the church

Learning from the Kerry babies case

Sir, – A few years ago I was changing channels and stopped at what was clearly a film set in Ireland. I thought it was fiction at first, it was so outrageous.

But it wasn’t, it was a scene from Danny Hiller’s excellent film Out of Innocence based on the Kerry babies tribunal, set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the false charges against Joanne Hayes and her family, as well as allegations of Garda misconduct.

Ms Hayes was questioned for five days in that courtroom. I sat watching in shock and wept for her and her wonderful, kind family as they struggled through that terrible time.

Thank you, Róisín Ingle, for your thoughtful article (“We should teach in schools what happened to Joanne Hayes”, Opinion, March 25th). I hope teachers discuss it in classrooms all over the country. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – Watching the RTÉ News, I found some of the coverage of the recent events in the Kerry babies case most unsettling. We were shown a homily by the parish priest for Cahersiveen who, very rightly, appealed for compassion for those involved. This appeal, however, appeared to be dropped into a vacuum, unrelated to the culture of Ireland of 1984.

That this culture was a misogynistic, moralistic and judgmental miasma inculcated primarily by the Roman Catholic Church, and its adherents in power, seems to have been overlooked. Where was the recognition that the church had created the very culture in which Joanne Hayes had to hide her pregnancy, like so many other women before and since.

For the Roman Catholic Church to now be appealing for compassion is hypocritical in the extreme. Yet the hubris did not end there.

The film footage also showed us a clip from Baby John’s grave, the headstone for which was marked “I was baptised”. What chutzpah does it take to baptise a deceased child into a church while utterly ignorant of his, or his parents, religious affiliations or wishes? Imagine if a Muslim cleric had attended the deceased and insisted on anointing him as Muslim, or a Rabbi or a cleric of any other religion?

How powerful must you believe your position in society to be to take it upon yourself to impose your religion on a deceased child, all the while wilfully oblivious to the fact that it was the teachings of your own church that gave rise to the environment in which children out of wedlock, and their mothers, were social pariahs.

The need to reform our Constitution to remove its prioritisation of Catholic Christianity, as recently discussed in this paper, does not arise in a vacuum either. It too flows from the context of the abuses perpetrated in the name of the Roman Catholic Church, and by virtue of its exalted position, in Ireland; and it’s why we need change. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.