Wednesday 21 March 2018

Defamed priest: Govt launches probe into Prime Time

Fr Kevin Reynolds. Photo: Collins reporters

IRELAND’S broadcasting watchdog is to investigate the background of shocking and false allegations made against Fr Kevin Reynolds by RTÉ.

The Cabinet discussed the matter this morning and decided that there should be "an independent inquiry to determine the true facts and circumstances" that led to the Prime Time programme being broadcast.

Pat Rabbitte, the Minister for Communications, has asked the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's Compliance Committee to examine if RTÉ "met its statutory responsibilities’’.

The Minster expects a report to be delivered within two months.

Earlier the priest at the centre of the false allegations - who received massive damages from RTE over a false allegation that he had fathered a child in Kenya - said that those at the heart of decision-making at the national broadcaster must face the consequences of their actions.

Speaking on Shannonside Radio, Fr. Reynolds said he was not looking for anyone to be sacked, or out for anybody’s blood.

The parish priest of Ahascragh, Co Galway, said the day he had to step down from his mission was “as if everything I believed had been destroyed”.

Last weekend, Fr Reynolds (65) told the Sunday Independent that he had no feelings of revenge or anger over being defamed.

“I feel very relieved it's all over. It has been an awful and devastating experience. So, so, so distressing - not only for me but for my family and for my parish,” he said.

More than 500,000 people watched the Prime Time Investigates programme entitled A Mission To Prey, which showed reporter Aoife Kavanagh confronting the priest after a first communion mass to falsely accuse him of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982 and fathering a child by the woman before abandoning them both.

An estimated 338,000 people also listened to the baseless allegation being repeated the following day on Morning Ireland.

The broadcasts went ahead despite Fr Reynolds’ vehement denials and his offer to take a paternity test. It later proved that he was not the father of the child.

The details of the award made to Fr Reynolds are confidentia,l but it is understood to be very significant with estimates that the libel has cost RTE in the region of €1m.

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