Friday 24 November 2017

Sackings 'not the way' to handle botched broadcast -- RTE

Colm Kelpie and Aoife Finneran

RTE last night insisted that sacking those responsible for a botched broadcast that led to a massive libel settlement was "not necessarily" the best way.

The state broadcaster yesterday secured an undisclosed settlement with Galway priest Fr Kevin Reynolds after it wrongly alleged that he sexually abused a teenage girl and fathered a child with her while a missionary in Kenya.

Both sides refused to reveal how much money is involved, but it is understood to be significant.

RTE was last night coming under intense pressure to reveal how and why certain editorial decisions were taken on the 'Prime Time Investigates' story that aired on May 23 last, and to reveal what disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible.

But a spokesman claimed treating the issue as a "punitive exercise" was not necessarily the best route to learn lessons.

"Looking for heads is not necessarily the best way for an organisation to learn the lessons that arise from an issue like this," he said.

However, he said that no decisions had yet been made, and said the matter would continue to be taken seriously by RTE.

"Our current affairs team has a very strong journalistic record over many years," he said.

"What we wish to do is to understand how this mistake was made and to ensure that our processes are sound to protect against such exceptional cases."

It is understood four individuals may have been involved in the editorial process for the programme, 'Mission to Prey', outside of reporter Aoife Kavanagh -- producer Mark Lappin, who it is understood has since left RTE; executive producer Brian Pairceir; editor of current affairs in charge of 'Prime Time' Ken O'Shea; and managing director of news Ed Mulhall.

It is not known if any of the five raised concerns before the airing of the programme.

Fr Reynolds (65), parish priest of St Cuan's, Ahascragh, Co Galway, brought proceedings following the broadcast last May, which purported to deal with the alleged abuse of children and teenagers by Irish missionaries in Africa.

The allegations in the programme concerning Fr Reynolds were also discussed on 'Morning Ireland' the following morning.

It is understood that Fr Reynolds wrote to RTE offering to do a paternity test before the programme aired to prove his innocence.

He has since undertaken that test, which proved he was not the father of the child.

Irish Independent

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