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Saturday 16 December 2017

Priest defamation: RTE urged to reveal who accused Fr Kevin Reynolds

Solicitor for defamed cleric asks why lawyers didn't deal with legal letters

Aoife Kavanagh's report defamed Fr Reynolds,
whose solicitor has raised further questions
Aoife Kavanagh's report defamed Fr Reynolds, whose solicitor has raised further questions

Brian McDonald

THE solicitor representing defamed priest Fr Kevin Reynolds has asked RTE to explain why the journalist at the centre of the erroneous report -- rather than senior management or a solicitor -- responded to legal correspondence protesting the priest's innocence.

Robert Dore, who took the case of the 56-year-old priest on a pro-bono basis, also wants to find out from RTE who provided the "baseless" information about his client -- and is prepared to pursue another legal case for the name.

The broadcaster has issued an apology to Fr Reynolds over its untrue allegations he had sexually abused a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982, fathered a child and abandoned them both.

In the High Court last Thursday, RTE settled Fr Reynolds' case under confidential terms, believed to be in the region of a seven figure sum.

But yesterday, Mr Dore said it still had questions to answer.

"I was quite surprised that a solicitor's letter would be replied to by Aoife Kavanagh, rather than the in-house solicitors," Mr Dore said.

He stressed that the correspondence had not been addressed to Ms Kavanagh or to the legal department within RTE, but could not specifically remember to whom.

"What I was surprised at is Aoife Kavanagh would respond to it herself, although I don't know the internal mechanics."

Mr Dore pointed out that a solicitor's letter on a matter of such seriousness should be responded to by a solicitor.

RTE declined to answer questions on the letter.

Mr Dore said he also wants to know the identity of the person who supplied the baseless information about Fr Reynolds to 'Prime Time Investigates'.

"RTE maintained it had a very reliable, third party source who identified my client and I am very curious to know who that person is."

He has insisted that he is willing to pursue this matter.

In a statement last night RTE said: "Clearly, serious errors were made in this case. RTE is currently reviewing the production of this programme and the steps and decisions taken which led to its being broadcast in a defamatory form.''

In addition, Prof John Horgan was carrying out an independent review.

"We will not be commenting on individual elements of the programme and its preparation, or on the outturns of review activity until after that activity is completed", the statement said.

The Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley said that it would be very hard to overstate the hurt caused to Fr Reynolds by RTE.

But he warned against a backlash against investigative journalism and said he worried that one journalist, Aoife Kavanagh, was the constant focus in the controversy.

At Mass in Ahascragh, Co Galway yesterday Fr Reynolds offered special prayers for "the good people of Caltra and Ahascragh" who had stood by him in his "hour of trial".

Irish Independent

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