Wednesday 1 March 2017

Fr Reynolds: I forgive accusers but I expect justice at RTE

Station boss under fire over libel row

Barry Duggan, Mark Hilliard and Breda Heffernan

THE priest defamed by RTE says he "absolutely and completely" forgives the Kenyan mother who falsely accused him of rape and fathering her daughter.

Fr Kevin Reynolds (65) told the Irish Independent he also forgave her daughter, who claimed he had abandoned her.

It is the first time he has publicly said he forgives the two women at the centre of RTE allegations against him.

He also said he expected "justice to be done" in RTE.

Fr Reynolds has yet to instruct his legal team on whether to pursue information from RTE on the identity of the "credible third-party source" who backed up the false claims broadcast on 'Prime Time Investigates'.

His disclosures came as RTE Director General Noel Curran came under fire from senior newsroom staff as he attempted to apologise for the manner in which the broadcaster had dealt with the libel issue.

Mr Curran was also grilled on whether or not the station had insurance to meet the undisclosed settlement agreed with Fr Reynolds, but he would not answer, citing a confidentiality agreement.

The sum paid out in the settlement is believed to be substantial.

Meanwhile, the family of Brother Gerard Dillon, who also featured in the controversial 'Prime Time Investigates' programme, last night demanded that RTE retract the allegation made against their uncle who is now dead.

It was alleged in the programme that he had sexually abused a pupil while a teacher in a Christian Brothers-run school in South Africa.

They said their uncle had been "silenced by death" and was unable to defend his good name against the allegation.

The family said it was the only one that was made against him in his 60 years of teaching.

They claimed that broadcasting the claim against a dead person, without first contacting his family or religious order so they could defend him, was a breach of "natural justice".

But RTE said that Brother Dillon's former pupil, who made the allegations, was still standing by his claims.

Fr Reynolds, a parish priest in Co Galway, said last night he had only briefly heard reports that two RTE senior chiefs temporarily stepped aside as three separate investigations into the documentary continue.

However, he said there had to be accountability.

"I'm the Parish Priest of Ahascragh. If something goes wrong in the church or whatever, I have to take full responsibility.

"The same goes for people in the positions of authority -- they get well paid for it.

It is a prestigious position. It just can't go away -- justice has to be done and seen to be done," he said.

RTE News Managing Director Ed Mulhall and Current Affairs Editor Ken O'Shea have decided to step aside from their roles as a government-ordered probe into the issue continues.

Fr Reynolds said he had "absolutely and completely" forgiven the Kenyan mother and daughter who featured on the infamous programme broadcast last May.

Ordination

He was based in Kenya for 33 years following his ordination in 1971.

The woman -- identified only as Veneranda -- corroborated with 'Prime Time Investigates' false claims that she was sexually assaulted by Fr Kevin Reynolds while she was a minor in Kenya in 1982. But her daughter -- identified as Sheila -- wrote a letter to his Mill Hill Order in Nairobi admitting Fr Reynolds was not her biological father after the show was broadcast.

"She (Sheila) was misled, wrongly advised, she was influenced wrongly," he said.

"She apologised in a letter and I accept that. God love her, I don't know why she did that. I forgive her completely and wish her well in life. I forgive both of them, of course.

"I have no anger or resentments. Any feelings of revenge -- that is simply not me. I don't want people to lose their jobs or heads to roll or to be victimised."

Fr Reynolds' solicitor, Robert Dore, said he would like to know who a third party -- who backed up the malicious allegations -- is.

"We haven't discussed that at all, but I might see him next week. He hasn't asked me personally or directly. I'll still leave it all to him -- the legal process, the investigations and whatever," Fr Reynolds said.

"I have nothing to do with the investigations or the government or whoever. As far as I am concerned, my main wish was to be clearly vindicated by the High Court.

"It is a huge distraction from my life and work. I just want to go back to normal life and enjoy the parish here."

Meanwhile, newsroom staff in RTE were summoned to a meeting yesterday where the director general spoke for approximately 40 minutes.

Stand-off

Morale at the broadcaster remains in a critical condition, however, with management and staff locked in a stand-off over €1.1m in payroll cuts.

Montrose sources indicated that Mr Curran had come under fire over how the situation has been handled and how information had come to light.

At least two senior staff members were irate at how the situation reflected on the broadcaster's reputation.

Mr Curran told staff that he understood if there was a resulting nervousness around covering major stories but the station now needed to win back public trust.

But criticisms were also levelled at a remark issued by the broadcaster in relation to whether or not jobs would be lost over the libel action.

Its line that "rolled heads" would not learn anything was seen to undermine any potential disciplinary process, rendering it a fait-accompli.



Irish Independent

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