Monday 19 March 2018

Fr Kevin Reynolds’ libel: Decision makers should stay until inquiry is completed – Minister

Fr Kevin Reynolds at Ahascragh Church, Co Galway
Fr Kevin Reynolds at Ahascragh Church, Co Galway

Breda Heffernan and reporters

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte said that he cannot recall a lapse of the magnitude of the libel of Fr Kevin Reynolds and public disquiet had to be allayed.

The senior people involved in decision making should stay in their positions until the statutory inquiry has concluded its work, Mr Rabbitte said, adding: “The management of RTE understands the gravity of it and that public disquiet has to be allayed.

Giving a strong vote of confidence to RTE Director General Noel Curran, he said that he had the confidence of the government in dealing with the “huge issues” RTE faces.

The new DG had tackled a wide range of problems with “imagination and determination” he added.

Minister Rabbitte said that he was concerned about Fr Kevin Reynolds as a citizen and resident of this country.

“The fact that he is a Catholic priest does not give RTE or anyone else the right to traduce his reputation,” he said on Morning Ireland.

It is important that the high standard of journalism at RTÉ is restored, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said following the request by Cabinet for an independent inquiry into how Fr Kevin Reynolds was defamed by Primetime Investigates..

Asked if RTÉ could not be trusted to do it, he said RTÉ normally had exceptionally high standards but in this case he said there seems to be a "grievous" drop in those standards.

The "perception", he said, had to be "totally above board".

And he agreed with Mr Curran that "clearly there is a need to see that the very high standard which normally pertains be restored".

The new series of 'Prime Time Investigates', due to be broadcast next month, has been suspended, RTE announced.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has two months to complete its investigation before reporting back to the Communications Minister. By law, RTE will have to hand over any documentation requested by the investigating officer.

Mr Curran, last night distanced himself from the case, insisting he had no role in the decision to air the controversial 'Mission to Prey' programme last May.

Mr Curran said that as editor-in-chief he took "absolute responsibility" for the libeling of the priest and was treating the case "in the most grave way".

However, speaking on RTE's 'Six One' yesterday, he said he had not been involved in clearing the programme for broadcasting.


Asked why those who were responsible for the programme are still in their jobs, Mr Curran said: "You have to go through due process.

"In terms of myself, I wasn't directly involved in the decisions that let up to the broadcast of the programme.

"In terms of the others, we will now engage with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland," he added.

"You have to balance accountability with not killing off investigative journalism in this organisation."

Mr Curran said the broadcaster would continue with its own reviews into the affair and that these would be completed in the coming weeks.

A report and recommendations will then be brought to the next meeting of the RTE board in December.

"Nothing will be ruled out in those recommendations," he added. He added that one of the issues being considered by the reviews was why reporter Aoife Kavanagh responded to a solicitor's letter sent to the broadcaster on behalf of Fr Reynolds.

Mr Curran said "serious mistakes" were made, including the delay in carrying out a paternity test to prove that Fr Reynolds had not fathered a child while doing missionary work in Africa in the 1980s.

Fr Reynolds had offered to undergo a paternity test before the programme was aired in order to prove his innocence.

The woman who made the allegation admitted she had lied in early September; however, the test was not carried out until the end of that month.

Irish Independent

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