European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has said there may yet be more revelations in the tragic story of Ann Lovett, following a dramatic interview with Ann’s boyfriend which sheds new light on the case.
Ann Lovett died aged 15 shortly after giving birth at the grotto in Granard, Co Longford, on January 31, 1984. Her baby boy was stillborn.
Ms O’Reilly was the first to report on the case at the time. Last weekend the Irish Times published an interview with Ricky McDonnell, who was Ann’s boyfriend in 1984.
Mr McDonnell revealed that Ann had visited him in a distressed state the previous April, with bruising to her thighs. He asked her if she had been raped — “She just cried. And she begged me not to tell anybody, not to say anything.”
The interview also features claims from Mr McDonnell regarding what happened in the aftermath of Ann’s tragic death, including the discovery of two letters written by Ann, one addressed to Ricky, of which he said:
“She had never meant to hurt me.”
He said the local parish priest asked him to burn the letter, which he did.
Ms O’Reilly said the story had now “unpicked a thread and who knew where that thread was going to unravel”.
Asked on RTÉ’s News At One if she agreed with a call by journalist Nell McCafferty for Ann’s baby to be exhumed for a DNA test, Ms O’Reilly said: “That would be a very big step... I don’t know if that can be done.”
She said the interview had given Ann a public face and turned attention to the involvement of the Church and the gardaí, and on whether the reports into the case by gardaí and politician Nuala Fennell were ever completed, as they were never published.
Following publication of the interview, Vicky Langan, a Cork-based artist and Mr McDonnell’s daughter, took to social media to outline how proud she was of her father for discussing the case and how “the silence surrounding this horrific tragedy has been an enormous burden on so many people”.
In a Facebook post, Ms Langan said she “knew nothing” of her father growing up but she had chanced across private correspondence belonging to her mother that referred to her estranged father’s relationship with Ann Lovett.
As she grew older, she said that “I saw references to the three separate inquiries carried out after Ann’s death and couldn’t understand why, in spite of these, there were still few solid facts to be found. I struggled with the weight of knowing who Ann’s baby’s father might be but was paralysed by it.”
Of her father, she said: “I am so proud of him for having the courage to come forward like this. It can’t have been easy. So many lives were ruined because of the way this was handled back in 1984. I can’t even begin to go into it.
“All I ever wanted to see was accountability.”