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Saturday 30 August 2014

Show's legal problems haunting station

Published 16/05/2012 | 17:00

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TWO other cases have come before the High Court as a result of the 'Mission To Prey' programme, which aired on May 23, 2011.

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• Fr Kevin Reynolds

Fr Reynolds, a former missionary priest, was named in the programme as having raped an underage girl in 1982 and fathering a girl with her.

Fr Reynolds went to Africa in 1971 as a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, having been appointed to the Diocese of Kisumu in Kenya. He left in January 2004 and became the parish priest in Ahascragh, Co Galway.

'Prime Time' recorded his alleged Kenyan victim, Veneranda, making the claims and aired it as part of the four minute and 40 seconds segment that focused on Fr Reynolds.

When confronted with the allegations outside his local church in Galway he denied them. He was so surprised by the allegations that he joked with reporter Aoife Kavanagh: "And I hope I look good on the picture."

However, before the programme aired he contacted his solicitor who wrote to RTE stating that Fr Reynolds was willing to do a paternity test.

RTE went ahead with the programme and Fr Reynolds stepped aside and began libel proceedings in the High Court.

Two DNA tests were subsequently carried out and both proved he was not the child's father.

His alleged daughter Sheila also wrote to the Mill Hill Missionaries last July stating "Fr Kevin is not my biological father."

RTE apologised to Fr Reynolds and accepted that the programme's allegations were baseless, without any foundation and untrue. The priest was awarded undisclosed damages by the High Court last year. He is believed to have been awarded in the region of €1m.

• Former Archbishop Richard Burke

Tipperary native Fr Burke was the second cleric to initiate High Court proceedings against the state broadcaster as a result of the 'Prime Time Investigates' programme.

He launched proceedings in December, a month after the broadcaster settled the Fr Reynolds libel case.

Fr Burke's case had no connection to the Fr Reynolds case and featured in a separate segment on the show. He claims the programme falsely accused him of child abuse when he was a priest in Nigeria.

He has admitted having a sexual relationship with a woman while he was a priest in Nigeria, but claimed she was an adult at the time and that the relationship was consensual.

The woman complained to the Vatican in 2008, triggering his resignation two years ago as Archbishop of Benin.

Fr Burke claims that he was libelled by accusations in the programme that the relationship began when the woman, was under age. She said the relationship began when she was 14 and that she suffered years of emotional torture.

In a statement to the 'Irish Catholic' newspaper in 2010, Fr Burke said that he was told of the allegations of sexual abuse in January 2009.

In a statement, he said: "She and I had a caring relationship that began in the latter part of 1989, when she was 21 and I was 40."

The case is expected to go to a full hearing in November.

Irish Independent

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