Thursday 19 October 2017

Rabbitte gives RTE board one week to report on libel

Mark Hilliard and Michael Brennan

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte yesterday gave the RTE board one week to file a report on the steps it is taking to address the issues raised by the 'Prime Time Investigates' libel of Fr Kevin Reynolds.

Mr Rabbitte did not seek the resignation of any of the 13 board members during a "robust" two-hour meeting at Montrose yesterday morning.

He had previously admitted that his confidence had been "shaken" after the publication of last week's Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) report.

But RTE board chairman Tom Savage said yesterday there had never been any intention by any member of the board to resign over the controversy.

Asked yesterday if he had confidence in the RTE board, Mr Rabbitte said: "I am satisfied that the board understands fully and comprehensibly the gravity of what has happened.

"I am satisfied that the board is determined that the expert recommendations set out both by Prof Horgan and by the BAI will be implemented."

The prospect of any of the board's members being forced to stand down is now extremely remote.

Judgment

Instead, he has requested a detailed report, within a week, on "all of the steps they are taking to address the serious systemic shortcomings that have been exposed by this case".

Senior management at the state broadcaster has also been tied into writing monitoring reviews for Mr Rabbitte every three months.

Mr Savage firmly dismissed any notion that a resignation from the board was necessary.

"That was never an issue," he said. "It was never raised by board members with me and the word 'resignation' or anything like it was no part of any of the discussions today."

He refuted the suggestion that only 'foot soldiers' -- such as reporter Aoife Kavanagh, who resigned last week -- had ultimately paid a price. "Our head of news and current affairs (Mr Mulhall) has resigned; people have been moved," he said.

"It would be unfair to say that people further up from what you have described as 'foot soldiers' have not been affected by it. Some of them have been grievously affected by it."

Mr Savage was later corrected in relation to Mr Mulhall, who left RTE through a retirement package on offer to staff. He did not resign.

Yesterday, Robert Dore, the solicitor for Fr Reynolds, said he would not question the minister's approach to the meeting or its outcome.

"I would not seek to second-guess his judgment in any way, nor do I believe that Fr Reynolds would," he said.

"It seems to me that his confidence (in the board), which was shaken, has been restored."

In a statement last night, RTE said its board members had told Mr Rabbitte their priority was to repair the damage to public trust.

"All of the recommendations of the Carragher report for the BAI and of the report by Professor John Horgan into RTE's editorial processes at RTE's request will be implemented," it said.

A report due to go to the minister will include a breakdown of remedial actions at the station, their objections and anticipated completion dates.

The board's 'Editorial and Creative Output Committee' is to set out a thorough review of the "cultural and working environment" at RTE.

Irish Independent

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