Joanne Hayes was put through a ruthless, public excoriation by the State, but letters of support from people show social consciences are not confined to modern Ireland

A woman protests in Dublin during the Kerry Babies Tribunal. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/

Ellen Coyne

In 1985, a housewife sat down to write a letter to Joanne Hayes. “I want you to know that a lot of women everywhere are outraged at the way you are being treated,” wrote the woman, who was also a mother . Hayes, just 25 , was being publicly and ruthlessly excoriated at a tribunal ostensibly set up to investigate the garda response to the Kerry Babies case, but had long since become an opportunity to punish a young single mother for all her moral fallibility. The prestige of official Ireland had been weaponised, in order to turn a tribunal into a misogynistic show trial.