Kerry Babies case 'dragging people back into a very dark place'

Kerry Babies case 'dragging people back into a very dark place'

The grave of 'Baby John' in Kerry. Even speculation dating back 39 years to 1984 has re-emerged as something revelationary. Picture: Don MacMonagle

From Listowel to Caherciveen, one of the most often expressed emotions is anger that the Kerry Babies case has once more put the spotlight on the Hayes family who suffered so much over the last four decades.

There is frustration too, especially in Caherciveen, that their localities are now back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

“The 1980s were a time of doom and gloom everywhere, and Caherciveen was no exception,” said one longtime resident, who did not want to be named. “And then along came the Kerry Babies and that is all we were known for, for a long time.

“I have heard more than one person wonder if the gardaí and everybody else could not have just left well alone after all this time.

“I don’t happen to agree with them, but there is anger that, look, here we go again, and the town is going to be dragged back into a very dark place all over again.” 

Another person in the town said few words, and instead turned and faced in the direction of Valentia, a few kilometres away.

“Don’t forget,” said the person. “When the cold case was opened in 2018, that is the place the gardaí really focused on. Maybe you need to be talking to them, not us.” 


There is bewilderment also, because the first that people knew of the arrests was when they found out through the media.

There were reports of unmarked Garda cars in a townland just outside Caherciveen.

Another report also emerged of increased Garda activity on the edge of the town, but that turned out to be a joint Garda and Customs and Excise operation to check for illegal use of green diesel in vehicles.

Anything unusual seemed to take on a whole new significance today. Even speculation dating back 39 years to 1984 re-emerged as something revelationary.

People to whom the Irish Examiner spoke in the various towns told of how they had started looking into their own respective communities, asking themselves: "Who could it have been all those years ago, and do we know them?"

In Listowel, where a man in his 60s was held for questioning, there was a mixed reaction to the arrests.

Drinkers in one pub in the heart of the town said they understood that the man held in the town’s Garda station was actually from the Abbeydorney-Lixnaw area some distance away.

In another pub, somebody else suggested he was from another part of the county, nearer Killorglin.

In truth, it almost didn’t matter who you spoke to, almost everyone had something to say.


If it wasn’t filled with anger about how the Hayes family has been treated, it was sympathy that their past was back in the present again.

Everybody seems to be trying to get their heads around the fact that after silence since the 2021 exhumation of baby John's body, someone, anyone, has been arrested.

“Do you know if they are from Listowel?” asked one resident chatting in the street to another, who replied that they had heard the suspects are not from Listowel at all, but Abbeydorney.

“There are a few links alright to the Kerry Babies case but not the ones you are asking about,” said Jerry Behan, who runs the town’s Horseshoe Bar.

“As well as gardaí who were involved in the investigation and who also came from Listowel, there was also my wife Margaret.

“She was Joanne Hayes' solicitor’s secretary at the tribunal in Dublin.” 

The 65-year-old, who has lived all his life in and around Listowel, said he has never heard of any other link from the town to the Kerry Babies case.

He knows the Hayes family and he said his heart went out to them.

“You just have to feel sorry for the Hayes family because it brings it all back onto them. Despite the fact that they were completely innocent and very wrongly implicated in anything to do with this particular case. I know the Hayes's and it has had a huge impact on them. They will be put out by this. It's just very hard for them to move on.

“Stories and developments just drag them back into it all.” Jerry added: “I really hope, for the sake of all involved, the opportunity for some closure is on the way.

“I hope this might see an end of something that just keeps dragging people like the Hayes family and others directly associated with this case into a place they would rather not be in.”

Across the region, there is a sense that maybe the latest arrests could bring the whole saga to an end.

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