Tuesday 20 March 2018

1985 State Papers: Gardaí ‘grossly negligent’ in Kerry babies scandal

Joanne Hayes was wrongly believed to be Baby John’s mother
Joanne Hayes was wrongly believed to be Baby John’s mother

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

An internal garda investigation into the handling of the Kerry Babies case found some officers had been "grossly negligent".

The findings of the special review, ordered by the Garda Commissioner and carried out by two chief superintendents, were submitted to then Justice Minister Michael Noonan on December 6, 1984.

Confidential Cabinet briefing papers, released as part of the State Archive, revealed that, in light of the internal report, the minister felt "he has no option but to proceed with the holding of a sworn inquiry into the case".

The Kerry Babies tribunal, under the High Court's Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, was ordered just days later.

It eventually cost IR£1.6m and found that Joanne Hayes, a young Kerry woman, was not the mother of the baby discovered at Cahersiveen on April 13, 1984.

The Lynch report also exonerated gardaí of any ill-treatment of the Hayes family.

The Cabinet memo set out the events that ran from April when the body of an infant baby boy was discovered on White Strand outside Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, up to December when the Government was briefed on the internal garda review findings.

"The (Garda) Commissioner has concluded that ... the report clearly indicates that the officers conducting the criminal investigation into the death of the Cahersiveen baby were grossly negligent in their handling of the case," it said.

"He considers that some form of sworn inquiry is required to establish what really happened."

One week later, the private secretary to Mr Noonan wrote to the wife of one garda over the issue of garda transfers and duty re-assignments.

In the private letter dated December 13, the civil servant stressed: "The power to transfer members of the gardaí or to assign them to different duties is by law vested in the (Garda) Commissioner.

"The commissioner informed him that, in the interests of the force, he had considered it right and indeed necessary to transfer from their present posts many of those who were assigned from the technical bureau to the 'Kerry Babies' investigation."

However 30 years later, the identity of 'Baby John', the tiny infant found at White Strand, still remains a mystery.

Former gardaí involved in the probe have for years called for DNA testing to try to trace the parents of 'Baby John'.

Pat Mann, solicitor for Joanne Hayes who was wrongly believed to be the mother of the baby, said he and his client would now welcome any forensic testing aimed at solving the mystery.

The Kerry solicitor also appealed for anyone with information about 'Baby John' to come forward.

'Baby John' was found stabbed on White Strand and he also had his spine fractured.

Ms Hayes had given birth to a different baby in Abbeydorney around the same time as the Cahersiveen baby was found.

However, her baby died shortly after birth and was wrapped in a plastic sheet before being buried near the family farm at Abbeydorney.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News