Ann Lovett was a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl from Granard, County Longford, Ireland who died giving birth beside a grotto on 31 January 1984. Her baby son died at the same time and the story of her death played a huge part in a seminal national debate in the country at the time on women giving birth outside marriage.
Tuesday, 31 January 1984 was a cold, wet, winter's day in Granard, Co. Longford. That afternoon, the fifteen year old school girl left her Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School and made her way to a Grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary at the top of her small hometown in the Irish midlands. It was here beneath the statue of Our Lady, that she gave birth, alone, to her infant son.
At around 4pm that day some children on their way home from school saw Ann's schoolbag on the ground and discovered her lying in the Grotto. They alerted a passing farmer who rushed to the nearby priest's house to inform him of the chilling discovery of Ann and her already deceased baby in the adjacent grotto. The priest's response to his request for help was; "It's a doctor you need".
Ann, still alive but hemorrhaging heavily, was carried to the house of the Parish Priest from where a doctor was phoned. She was then driven in the doctor's car to her parents house in the centre of the town. By the point an ambulance arrived it was already too late.
Ann Lovett and her child were quietly buried three days later in Granardkill cemetery.
A quarter of a century on from a tragedy that shocked the nation, many questions remain unanswered about the deaths of Ann Lovett and her infant child.—Ali Bracken, 
On Saturday night, 4 February 1984, Ireland's most popular television show was coming to an end, when the host read this headline from the next day's Sunday Tribune newspaper: "Girl, 15, Dies Giving Birth In A Field".
With the words "Nothing terribly exciting there", the newspaper was cast down on the studio floor by the Late Late Show host, Gay Byrne.
This moment marked the first introduction the world had to the story of Ann Lovett and her newborn child.
A phonecall had been made to the Dublin newspaper by an anonymous caller from Granard and the story, broken in the Sunday Tribune by Emily O'Reilly, drew the attention of the world to the tragic incident. The next day Granard was swamped with national and international media.
The story shocked the nation and left many asking how such a thing could happen. For others it was an opportunity to finally reveal similar stories that had remained hidden for decades. The Gay Byrne show on RTÉ Radio began to receive letters from all over the country. "Too many letters. They couldn't be ignored".
The local community and clergy, including the order of nuns at the school which Ann had attended remained tight lipped, apart from a terse statement, denying any knowledge of the teenagers pregnancy.
While the statement issued by the nuns, following legal advice, said they "did not know" about her pregnancy they subsequently, refused to confirm whether they had suspected it or not.
Rumours also abounded about the identity of the child's father and the difficult family circumstances in which Ann herself was reared.
Many residents of Granard, accused the media of being overly intrusive and of wrongly attach blame to the community for the tragedy.
Inquest and enquiries
The inquest also confirmed that, contrary to claims emanating from the local community, some people did indeed know about Ann's condition before her death.
Subsequent enquiries by the Gardaí, the Department of Education and the Midlands Health Board have yet to be published leaving the tragic events of that day and the circumstances that forced a young girl to leave her classroom on a cold, wet winters day to give birth alone in a grotto, still shrouded in uncertainty.
Ann Lovett's death came just four months after the outcome of a divisive abortion referendum in which a two-thirds majority voted to enshrine the right to life of the unborn in the constitution, creating confusion over where that left the rights of the mother.
In the ensuing public debate, the tragic events at Granard became symbolic of the emerging clash between church and state.
Twelve years after Ann's death, Lorelei Harris, a producer on the Gay Byrne programme, decided to make a radio documentary on the letters sent to the show in the immediate aftermath of the Granard tragedy.
She sought the opinions of local people on the pregnancy and death of Ann Lovett. Journalists and broadcasters also talked about their experiences at the time. Contributors to this documentary include Emily O'Reilly, Kevin O'Connor and people from Granard. The "Letters to Ann" were read by Aidan Matthews and John MacKenna, with Ann-Marie Horan reading from the original Gay Byrne show letters.
In 2004, TG4 produced a 30 minute documentary in their Scannal series about the tragedy.
In October 1987, Cry Before Dawn released a song titled "Girl In The Ghetto", which had been written as "Girl In The Grotto". It is a reflection on the Ann Lovett story.
"Middle Of The Island", by Christy Moore, from his 1989 album Voyage, is another song examining the society in which Ann Lovett lived and how she could have died in such circumstances. The song also appears in the Christy Moore Box Set under the title "Ann Lovett" and has also appeared on the Traveller album from 1999, where it was used to introduce "The Well Below The Valley", recorded live at Glastonbury festival.
The Longford-based Fabulous Beast dance company debuted, in 2003, a version of the ballet Giselle, in which Ann Lovett's story was again incorporated. Giselle has toured the globe and won many awards.
In 2014, a song and video were released by Jj Kikola entitled "(They Were) Deaf To Her Child's Cries". The song is written in memory of Ann and her child, and was released two weeks before the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. Kikola, in a subsequent interview cited his inspiration for writing the song, as being the fact that the event has been largely unknown to the younger generation in Ireland.
"What moved me the most was the image of a frightened young girl who felt there was no-one she could turn to for help in her crisis. It's easy to say in retrospect that the support would have been there if she had only asked for it but clearly she did not feel that revealing her pregnancy would have been acceptable."
According to Kikola "The whole concept of passing on knowledge; folklore, education and of learning as human beings is to examine these events and make sure they don't happen again."
Much of the video for the song was filmed on location in Granard.
- Comment: Emily O'Reilly: The unfinished business of Ann Lovett and what we never managed to learn, Emily O'Reilly, The Times, 30 March 2003, retrieved 3 July 2009
- The lie of the land, Fintan O'Toole, p.154
- Ann Lovett: The story that wouldn't remain local, Scannal, RTÉ Television
- Folk women and indirection in Morrison, Ní Dhuibhne, Hurston and Lavin, Jaqueline Fulmer, Ashgate, p.152
- Emily O'Reilly's account of how she broke the story in the Sunday Tribune, Emily O'Reilly, Sunday Tribune, 28 June 2009
- Disturbing stories from the underbelly of Irish life, 3 October 2008
- The GUBU years, Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times,
- Death that shocked Ireland, The Age, Ronit Lentin, 1 June 1984, retrieved 4 July 2009
- Video on YouTube
- Bracken, Ali (1 February 2009). "Vale of tears, veil of silence". Sunday Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "The Changing Face of Catholic Ireland: Conservatism and Liberalism in the Ann Lovett and Kerry Babies Scandal" by Moira Maguire in Feminist Studies, College Park, Summer 2001, Vol 27, Issue 2 pg 335).
- director Leo de Boer (1987). For Ann Lovett 1968-1984. Netherlands.
- "CURRICULUM VITAE LEO DE BOER". Leo de Boer. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
- Video on YouTube
- Video on YouTube
- Video on YouTube
- interview on YouTube