Kerry Babies: The official story

Since material evidence was uncertain or contradictory, one had to resort to evidence of a mental kind; and where could one find it, except in the very mentality of the accusers? The motives and sequence of actions were therefore reconstituted off-hand but without a shadow of a doubt. (Mythologies, Roland Barthes)

The ‘evidence of a mental kind’ that built the case against Joanne Hayes—off-hand, without material evidence, but without a shadow of a doubt—was obviously in place from the beginning (and before the beginning) of the investigation.

The authorised truth

To establish that Joanne Hayes was the kind of woman John Courtney had predicted she would be, her lover, Jeremiah Locke, was questioned as to the time, place, and manner of their illicit lovemaking. He was given an ordnance survey map and asked to point out exactly where on the road to Abbeydorney they had pulled off to have sex in the back seat of his white mini car.
He revealed that she had not been a virgin when he met her. Barrister Martin Kennedy, representing Garda superintendents, justified this questioning by asking ‘Did she love this man or love what he or some other man was prepared to do with her?’

The official truth

Nowhere is the operation of power relations more obvious than in the Report of the Lynch Tribunal. Lynch prefaces his highly speculative account of the birth of Hayes’s baby with this remarkable passage:

This Chapter contains fewer references than most of the other Chapters in this Report, to the transcripts of the evidence given at the hearings of the Tribunal of Inquiry. The reason is that most of the facts found in this Chapter are found by inference from other facts found in this Report, or by inference from evidence not directly supporting such facts, but indirectly doing so to the satisfaction of the Tribunal. 

An Garda in the twenty-first century

Drew Harris takes on the Garda Commissioner job as the force grapples with vicious gang warfare on the streets of the Republic, with self-inflicted wounds from scandals over phantom breathalyser tests, disappearing penalty points, and the scandalous treatment of whistleblowers, and with a new report from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) that strongly criticises An Garda Síochána’s approach to policing in several areas including public order policing, the use of force, the detention of suspects, the investigation of hate crime, and its dealings with Roma and Travellers. The report calls for a more radical approach and a change in the mindset of the Garda.

Coercion, confessions, and the garda code of silence

Older Dubliners will tell you that we never had anything like the street violence we see today when Lugs Brannigan was around; those whose historical glasses have lost the rose tint, however, remember the running street battles involving the ‘animal gangs’ of the 1930s and ‘40s, and the ‘Teddy Boys’ of the ‘50s (though admittedly they didn’t have guns, just knives, hatchets, bicycle chains, iron bars, knuckle dusters, and the rest). The legendary garda’s method of policing apparently consisted largely in a clip around the ear or a kick up the arse and that was enough to keep Dublin safe.

Changing Policing in Ireland

Speaking in October 2014 Frances Fitzgerald said that in order to make An Garda Síochána the best possible police force for the country, substantial changes were needed and promised that the proposed Policing Authority would bring a new layer of public accountability and transparency to the administration and oversight of policing. But then, along came whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson telling about systemic mismanagement and worse among the gardaí. It appears that little energy was expended on investigating wrongdoing—this time within the gardaí—but huge efforts were made to nail the ‘rats’ who informed on them. 

Disclosures Tribunal

In testimony to the Disclosures Tribunal, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), who chaired the meeting on 23 January during which Callinan made the now infamous ‘disgusting’ comment, said ‘On that particular day . . .  as I approached the garda commissioner, he immediately went into a story telling me about an incident involving [whistleblower] John Wilson . . . and [said] the other fella fiddles with kids; they’re the kind of fucking headbangers I’m dealing with’. So much for the ‘pillar of integrity’ that was to greatly reinforce public confidence in the working of our police services. Somebody didn’t get the memo.

Of glass ceilings and glass slippers

In October 1983 the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution became law following a referendum that resulted in a two-to-one majority for its inclusion. More than three decades later, a second referendum returned a two-to-one majority for its repeal in the centenary year of Irish women’s suffrage. It seems fitting to ask whether the significant change in attitude signalled by the vote to give women the right to make their own healthcare decisions translates into changes in the status of women in Ireland more generally.

The integral body

After a very slow start for the first seventy or so years of the last century, we’ve made some progress over the last four decades in the recognition of gender-based violence as both a major public health problem and a violation of human rights. Nevertheless, Ireland’s record is still shameful. 14% of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since age 15. Six per cent have experienced sexual violence by a current or former partner, and 31% have experienced psychological violence by a partner. Fourteen per cent of the current population of women in Ireland (2,407,437) would be more than 337,000 women.

Something to boast about: sexual violence

The recent trial of four young men in Belfast in which they were acquitted of charges relating to the rape of a then nineteen-year-old student showed up attitudes toward women on the island of Ireland that we had hoped had long ago disappeared down the u-bend of history.
Here in the Republic the perpetrator in the infamous X case, convicted of raping a fourteen-year-old girl, was sentenced to fourteen years in prison reduced to four on appeal. He served three. After his release on May 31st, 1997, he passed garda vetting and was given a licence to drive a taxi.