Department of Justice says keeping archives of Kerry Babies Tribunal hidden from public is “right thing” to do

THE head of the Department of Justice said a decision to withhold archives from the Kerry Babies case could be “misrepresented” but that the department had to do the “right thing” to protect the woman at the centre of the case.

The Department is keeping the records secret even though they should have gone to the National Archives because thirty years have passed since their creation.

Internal records have shown that the Department of Justice had originally planned handing over transcripts of the Kerry Babies tribunal and other documents so that they could be studied by academics, journalists, and members of the public.

However, the records describe how Joanne Hayes – the wrongly accused mother at the centre of the case – had strongly objected to their release.

Internal emails released under FOI show how the Department of Justice was aware that failure to disclose the documents could be seen as them trying to keep them hidden.

A message sent on January 20 by Acting Secretary General Oonagh McPhillips to colleagues said: “I understand the concern about the perception but in this instance we need to continue to do the right thing even if it’s misrepresented.”

She said it was a “tricky issue” but that there was already a vast amount of material relating to the tribunal in the public domain in books and newspaper archives.

Ms McPhillips was responding to an email from Sarah Kavanagh, a ministerial special adviser, who warned that the state could be criticised if the records were kept hidden.