Reopening of Kerry Babies case is long overdue, says Longford director

Jessica Thompson


Jessica Thompson


Kerry Babies

The beach in Co Kerry where a baby boy was found stabbed to death in 1984

The recent re-opening of the Kerry Babies case has been something that was long overdue, according to Longford director, Luke Casserly, who debuted his work, 'Efficacy 84', which is based on the case, at the Dublin Fringe Festival last autumn.

A former student of St Mel's College in Longford and a recent graduate of Drama and Theatre Studies in Trinity College Dublin, Luke is a theatre-artist interested in making innovative and experimental new work, with a particular interest in presenting work that plays with theatrical convention.

Efficacy 84 staged the events from the 1984 case through the lense of contemporary society attempting to connect with traumatic events from the past, and demonstrating how art can begin to engage with the atrocities that face the world.

“I first discovered the Kerry Babies case in 2016, when I came across Nell McCafferty’s influential book 'A Woman To Blame', in which McCafferty gave chapter-by-chapter accounts of Joanne Hayes’ experience in the aftermath of a child washing up on Cahirciveen Beach in Co Kerry,” Luke told the Longford Leader on Monday afternoon.

“As a theatre-maker, it is my responsibility and ambition to find the truth of the situation for an audience that makes sense in a theatrical context.
“What quickly became apparent were the challenges of representation and how the piece could reflect the struggle and tension that exists between art and real-life.

“These values became reflected in the dramaturgy of the piece, where the people onstage became an infusion of themselves and the ‘other’ characters involved in Joanne Hayes’ narrative from 1984.”
The performance, Luke added, was well received at the Dublin Fringe Festival.
“It was a really important project for me, which I had been developing over a year and a half, and I was really glad that more people had the opportunity to see it in Dublin,” he said.

“I would love to bring it back one day, but I’m not sure when and where that might be. At the moment I am developing a new piece of work through the support of the Pan Pan International Mentorship programme.”
But, he adds, it is pertinent now that this case is being explored 34 years later in a national context.

“But it’s also still a story of so many fragments and cordoned-off memory. As a theatre-maker, I am interested in these repressed narratives and how theatre can breathe new life in old bones.

“I have been glad to see these harrowing, and unusual events spoken about in the public domain recently. Particularly in light of the the political conversations happening in our society at present, the Kerry Babies is an iconic and excoriating story for us all to bear witness to once again, so that history does not repeat itself.

“Joanne Hayes was hunted by society for simply existing in her own truth. Nobody should be persecuted or ridiculed for this. Not then, not now,” he concluded.