Mattie Lennon Irish Author- THE KERRY BABIES


By Mattie Lennon

“Murder cannot be hid long.” (Shakespeare.)

   Contrary to what the Bard said some murders can be hidden for decades.  A murder investigation has been mounted last month into a killing which took place 34 years ago.

Chief Superintendent Walter O ‘Sullivan says they are investigating the death, “ . . as if it happened today.”

   On Saturday 14th April 1984 a dead baby with 28 stab wounds and a broken neck was found on the beach of White Strand, County Kerry.  A murder hunt got under way led by Superintendent J. P. Sullivan.  On Thursday 26th April Detective Sergeant Gerry O ‘Carroll of the then “Murder Squad” arrived from Dublin.

Almost every female of child-bearing age in the Caherciveen area was treated as a suspect.  Then it was established that Joanne Hayes from Drumcunning Lower, Abbeydorney, almost 40 miles away, had given birth but there was no baby as a result. Detective Superintended John Courtney and Detective P.J. Browne, both from the Murder Squad,  (known as “The Heavy Gang” in Dublin), arrived in Kerry on 29th April.  All three Murder Squad Gardai were Kerrymen. Courtney was from Anascaul, the native place of explorer Tom Crean and O ‘Carroll and Brown were both natives of Listowel; a market town in north Kerry famous for fiction-writers. Joanne Hayes along with three members of her family were taken to Tralee Garda station where Joanne Signed a confession that she had killed the “Cahirciveen baby” and her family signed statements that they had witnessed the killing and driven 40 miles to dispose of the body.  (Journalist Joe Joyce says, “The statements had the kind of flourish well known to those of us familiar at the time with confessions in garda stations . . .”) The Hayes family could not have committed the crimes that they allegedly confessed to.

   Joanne had told the detectives that she did have a baby, that it died at birth and she had buried it on the family farm. She gave an exact location of where she put it. More than once she offered to accompany detectives to the scene. Was her offer(s) accepted? No. The Gardai conducted a half-assed search and, of course, found nothing.   Members of her family located the baby’s body exactly where she had said it was.  Blood tests proved that she was not the mother of the “Caherciveen baby” but the Gardai proceeded to charge her with the murder. (I can’t find any evidence that a file had been sent to the DPP.)  When the case came to court the state announced that it was not proceeding.

   When it was established that Joanne Hayes was telling the truth about the death of her baby and the disposal of its body the Gardaí had to take a different track. They put forward the superfecundation theory whereby Joanne could have had twins be two different fathers.

  A subsequent internal garda enquiry failed and a public tribunal of enquiry, chaired by Mr. Justice Kevin Lynch, started in January 1985.  It lasted 84 days, 109 witnesses were called and 61,000 questions were asked   (One lawyer asked Joanne 2,216 personal questions).  Ostensibly the tribunal was an examination of Garda behaviour during the interrogation of the Hayes family but turned out to be a concerted effort to humiliate, embarrass and devastate Joanne Hayes and her family.  Kerry’s Eye editor Ger Colleran says, “Everyone knew Joanne was innocent but if that was proved then a lot of very powerful and important people would be shown to have misbehaved badly. The system would have been rocked, and careers ruined. So there was only one option – to destroy her.”      When the decent people of north Kerry, and further afield,   decided to stage a peaceful protest Justice Lynch threatened to jail them if they disrupted the tribunal.  The learned Dublin-born judge described them as “raucous, ignorant, urban dwellers” and  Detective P.J. Browne knocked great fun out of describing Abbeydorney as “Babby-dorney.”

   In his report Justice Lynch accused the Hayes family of “barefaced lies and blatant perjury” but the Gardaí only “gilded the lily” and    Detective Superintendent John Courtney simply, “elevated wishful thinking to the status of fact.”   Justice Minister, Michael Noonan agreed with Justice Lynch’s report and likened his powers of deduction to those of Sherlock Holmes. However not all politicians felt that Justice Lynch had anything in common with the sleuth of Baker Street.  Senator Mary Robinson who was to become President Of Ireland and later  United Nations High Commissioner,  asked  how the Hayes family came  to give signed confessions  to the murder of a baby which,  “ . . .for scientific reasons among others, they were not in a position to have carried out or to have any part in.”       The Dáil committee on women’s rights described the questioning of Joanne as “insensitive, harrowing, horrific and shameful”.

  Kevin Lynch worked hard to protect the establishment and he was well rewarded for it. He became a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1996.

  Gerry O ‘Carroll, who was later promoted to Inspector, spent years calling for a DNA test which he claimed would prove  that Joanne Hayes had twins. He knows now. In late 2017 a DNA test proved beyond all doubt that Joanne Hayes was not the mother of the “Caherciveen baby.”  And there is no match between the baby and anyone Whose DNA is held on the State’s DNA database.

     On January 16th Superintendent Flor Murphy offered a public apology on behalf of the Garda Siochana, to Joanne Hayes for the “stress and pain” she suffered as a result of being wrongly accused of killing the “Caversiveen baby.”  He said, “I believed it was important to exonerate Joanne Hayes once and for all. A wrong had been visited on her and saying sorry was the right thing to do.” And Acting Garda Commissioner Donal O Cualain sent a letter of apology followed by a phone call to Joanne Hayes.

 On the same day Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to, “. . . reiterate the apology the Gardaí made to Joanne Hayes and also to make that apology on behalf of the State as well”. He went on to say that Ms Hayes was,” Very badly treated by our State and by our society.” Mr Varadkar said: “I can’t offer compensation here now but it’s something that I think we can discuss with her representatives in the period ahead.”

   The Garda’s serious crime review team (SCRT) have now launched a murder inquiry into the “Caherciveen baby’s” death and Superintendent Murphy has asked for the public’s help.


   When I was writing the above a paragraph in Ireland’s Own jumped out at me. I don’t think the author was thinking of the Kerry Babies when he wrote it but I believe it’s worth including, “A time comes when the damage done to us has to be acknowledged and realised. Who knows what surprises may come our way when we clear out the space for them. The arrival of February is an especially apt time to take stock in this way, the best kind of spring cleaning.”

Mattie Lennon


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Odyssey Storytelling- Presents “You Don’t Know Me”

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SISTERS IN CRIME DESERT SLEUTHS CHAPTER and PHOENIX COLLEGE- PRESENTS “Building Unforgettable Stories from Compelling Characters”



“Building Unforgettable Stories from Compelling Characters”


Date and Time: March 3, 2018 – 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Location: Phoenix CollegeOsborn SiteWillo Conference Room – 
3310 N. 10th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013 – (NE corner of 11th Ave & Flower)

In this one-day workshop, award-winning novelist DAVID CORBETT, author of The Art of Character, will guide participants through a variety of techniques that will not only enhance their characterization skills, but deepen their understanding of motivation, conflict, and story. Participants can expect to learn:

  • Where to find inspiration for intriguing characters.
  • How to build compelling characters from the inside out, using the conflict between Yearning and Resistance.
  • How to create compelling back stories, how to use them to create behavior, and when to use that information in the story.
  • How to explore the character’s physical, psychological, and sociological natures for greatest dramatic effect.
  • How to use Secrets, Contradictions, and Vulnerability to intensify reader engagement.
  • Strategies for what to reveal about a character and what to withhold.
  • A methodology for creating meaningful secondary characters, and how to create a character web that maximizes cooperation, competition, and conflict.
  • Specific techniques relevant to the mystery/crime genre—i.e., creating complex heroes and villains, as well as developing secondary characters unique to the genre.


DAVID CORBETT is the Award-Winning author of six novels, including 2015’s The Mercy of the Night and the upcoming The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday, as well as the novella The Devil Prayed and Darkness Fell, the story collection Thirteen Confessions (2016), and the writing guide The Art of Character (“A writer’s bible” –Elizabeth Brundage). His short fiction has been selected twice for Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Narrative, Bright Ideas, and Writer’s Digest, where he is a contributing editor. For more about our instructor, visit:

Registration Fee: $50.00 for Desert Sleuths Chapter Members, $75.00 for non-members (snacks and lunch included).


For further details and to register, please visit:

Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter

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The Society of Southwestern Authors- Forum Happy New Year Ya’ll  Jan. 21st,2018 “World Building-It’s in Every Novel”   So What Is It? Come and Learn From Keith Shaw





Happy New Year Ya’ll

 Jan. 21st,2018

At the Hotel Tucson (Inn Suites)

From 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Hotel Tucson

475 N. Granada, Tucson, AZ 85701

Coming from the north or south on I-10, take the St. Marys/Speedway exit. Go East to Granada St. traffic light. Turn right on Granada. Second driveway is the Hotel Tucson. OR traveling west on Speedway, cross Stone Ave.  Next left is Main St. Turn left, cross RR tracks. Go straight. Main becomes Granada at traffic light, and second right driveway is The Hotel Tucson.

“World Building-It’s in Every Novel”  

So What Is It?

Come and Learn From

Keith Shaw

You can do it too.

This is a Forum with a delicious dinner

 Forum Reservations: Please RSVP

**Email or

 Phone# 520-444-8253 leave a message for Mary Ann Carman

(SSA’s Secretary)

by Wednesday January 17th,2018

Cost: $25.00 w/ RSVP $30.00 at the door

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The National Writers Union Tucson- hosting a reading and open mic on Monday, November 20

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University of Arizona Poetry Center- November 2017 Events

Coming up this month at the Poetry Center.

November Events

Annual In Memoriam Reading: November 1, Wednesday at 5:30 PM / Join the Tucson community for a docent-led reading featuring the voices of poets who are deceased but whose legacy lives on in this celebration.  This event takes place in the Hillman Odeum.

Morgan Lucas Schuldt Memorial Reading: Layli Long Soldier & Timothy Yu: November 2, Thursday at 7:00 PM / The Poetry Center is proud to present Layli Long Soldier & Timothy Yu. After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.

Layli Long Soldier & Timothy Yu in Phoenix: November 3, Friday at 7:00 PM/ The Poetry Center is proud to present Layli Long Soldier and Timothy Yu. After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing. This reading is at the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004).

Open Mic:  November 4, Saturday at 11:30 AM / Poetry Center Docents host their monthly Open Mic event. The open mic will be round-robin style, which means each attendant will have the chance to share their own or a favorite poem. This event takes place in the Hillman Odeum.

Pō é tree: Women Poets Speaking of Trees: November 4, Saturday at 3:00 PM / Pō é tree is a docent-led partnership between the University of Arizona Poetry Center and the University of Arizona Campus Arboretum and is held under the trees on the Campus Arboretum in front of Herring Hall.

Oro Valley Poetry Circle: The Poetry of Mary RuefleNovember 9, Thursday at 2:00 PM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Oro Valley Public Library.UA Prose Series: Rubén Martínez: November 9, Thursday at 7:00 PM / The UA Prose Series, curated by faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the UA, presents prose writers of distinction. The Poetry Center is proud to present Rubén Martínez. After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.

Literary Fiction Book Club – “Mister Monkey” by Francine Prose: November 15, Wednesday at 5:00 PM / To participate in a Book Club conversation, just read the book and join us on the red couches in the lobby of the Poetry Center.

Family Day: November 18, Saturday at 10:00 AM / Family Day is a day of workshops, music, activities, and refreshments just for kids ages 0 to 13 and their parents and guardians. It’s free and open to the public, and is a great way to engage with your child through reading, writing, play, and dance.

Main Library Poetry Circle: Ted Kooser: November 18, Saturday at 10:30 AM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

Kirk-Bear Canyon Poetry Circle: Mark Doty: November 27, Monday at 1:00 PM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library.

Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, and Joy Harjo hosted by Natalie Diaz at the Phoenix Art Museum: December 1, Friday at 7:00 PM / Seating for this event in Whiteman Hall is now SOLD OUT.  There may be limited additional seating in Whiteman Hall on the night of the event on a first come, first served basis, to be released 5 minutes before the event starts.  Additionally, 200 overflow seats and a live feed video system will be set up in the Great Hall adjacent to Whiteman Hall for those without seats in the auditorium.

Three literary legends come together at the Phoenix Art Museum to read from their own writing, as well as to discuss and celebrate the respective and collective impacts of their work over the years. This reading is at the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004).

Blog Roundup

Did you know we collected our 50,000th book? Read about this exciting addition to our collection here.

Natalie Welch brings us an interview with writer and educator Lisa M. O’Neill (Writing & Teaching Social Justice: An Interview w/ Lisa M. O’Neill)

Alexandra Barylski continues her series on embodied poetics (Vapor Through Various Satins)

Copyright © 2017 The University of Arizona Poetry Center, All rights reserved.
Coming Up at the Poetry Center

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The University of Arizona Poetry Center

1508 E. Helen St.

TucsonAZ 85721

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