A Woman to Blame: The Kerry Babies Case by Nell McCafferty

a woman to blame

In light of the recent re-visiting of this dark period in Irish society, one could do worse than read this excellent account by someone who was a witness to the shameful events of 1984-85. For those of us who are old enough to remember it, this account brings us back to all the horror of the daily reports coming out of the Tribunal of Enquiry. For those too young to remember, accounts such as this serve to illustrate how recently such a witch hunt happened. If one was asked to guess when this whole sorry state of affairs occurred, one might hazard a guess at the 1930s -1950, not a mere 34 years ago.

Nell McCafferty tells the story in plain, dispassionate language and the book is so engrossing, I read it in two sittings.  McCafferty writes with tender respect towards Joanne Hayes and her family, who found themselves caught up in this nightmare. The compassiom she shows is reflected in the attitudes of local people and the common decency of ordinary Irish people shines through.  The context of the Ireland of that era is deftly drawn. The position of women in society, the power of institutions, such as the church, the judiciary and the Gardai is outlined with great clarity. There is an underlying feeling of righteous anger at the inequalities of the times. The question for us all is, are we as far removed from those days as we would like to think we are?

I would urge everyone to read this highly significant book. The past may indeed be another country, but it’s not so long ago since our people inhabited it. Read it and weep.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.


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