Prime Time settles libel case with priest over false allegation of paternity
Published 17/11/2011 | 17:31
THE defamation action - involving a priest accused by RTÉ of having sex with a minor and fathering a child by her - has been settled.
Parish priest Fr Kevin Reynolds, Ahascragh, Co Galway, was “grossly defamed” by RTÉ in the Prime Time Investigates programme broadcast on May 23, according to a settlement read out in the High Court.
The case had been due to go to a four-day trial.
The damages were not disclosed. However, RTÉ has agreed to pay both compensatory and aggravated damages to the priest.
RTÉ has also agreed to broadcast corrections on RTÉ’s Prime Time and Morning Ireland programmes. Corrections will also be published in the Connaught Tribune, The Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.
The lengthy terms of settlement was read out in front of the reporter Aoife Kavanagh, the executive producer Brian Páircéir and the Prime Time Investigates editor Ken O’Shea.
Jack Fitzgerald SC, counsel for Fr Reynolds, said reporter Aoife Kavanagh had confronted the priest after first communion mass and accused him of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982, fathering a child by the woman and abandoning the child.
Despite the priest’s repeated denials, an email from Fr Reynold’s former bishop Philip Sulumeti in Kenya and his offer to take a paternity test, the programme was broadcast.
Mr Fitzgerald said RTÉ and Aoife Kavanagh had choices prior to the broadcast and the ones they made was “utterly misjudged and wrong”.
Up to 519,000 viewers watched the programme, which was heavily advertised in advance.
The allegation was treated as fact on the following morning’s Morning Ireland radio programme, which had 338,000 listeners.
It was also broadcast worldwide on the web, he said.