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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Prime Time: Aoife Kavanagh insisted she could back claims priest fathered child

Aoife Kavanagh1...Aoife Kavanagh, Prime Time Reporter, leaving court yesterday(Thurs) after the settlement of a High Court action taken by Fr Kevin Reynolds against RTE.Pic: Collins Courts
Aoife Kavanagh1...Aoife Kavanagh, Prime Time Reporter, leaving court yesterday(Thurs) after the settlement of a High Court action taken by Fr Kevin Reynolds against RTE.Pic: Collins Courts

Mark Hilliard

THE 'Prime Time Investigates' reporter Aoife Kavanagh insisted she could stand over the allegations made in the disastrous 'Mission To Prey' programme days after it was broadcast.

Newly published legal documents reveal a fresh insight into who knew what and when during the build-up to the massive libel settlement with Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The Galway priest had strenuously offered a paternity test before its broadcast on May 23, accusing him of raping an African woman and fathering her child.

Amid a flurry of legal correspondence, reporter Aoife Kavanagh -- who has since resigned her position with RTE -- insisted that 'Prime Time Investigates' could stand over all of the allegations.

It has also emerged that Sheila Mudi -- whom RTE falsely identified as Fr Reynolds' illegitimate child -- had written a letter in or around July of last year detailing how Fr Reynolds was not her father.

But RTE was accused of continuing to delay the paternity test process in August, three months after the programme aired to 500,0000 viewers.

By this time Fr Reynolds was a "social pariah" according to his solicitor.

The revelations are contained in a ruling published last night by the High Court Taxing Master Declan O'Neill, who assessed the level of legal costs in the Reynolds libel case against RTE.

In a letter to the broadcaster from Fr Reynolds' solicitor Robert Dore, he reiterated his position that he had never fathered a child.

A legal note on the letter stated that it "also emphasised the extremely serious consequences of the defamation".

However, in a letter dated June 30, RTE's solicitor said "my client is fully satisfied it can stand over the allegations".

The papers also detail how, once the first paternity test had proved negative, RTE had requested a second test "or series of tests".

An email to Mr Dore dated September 7, also outlined unsatisfactory procedures surrounding it and recommended a retest.

After the second result came through as negative, RTE wrote to Mr Dore saying the station now wished to apologise "and to express its sincere apology to him for the undoubted damage which it has done to his reputation".

An on-air apology was finally delivered to Fr Reynolds in October.

However, the papers reveal how all the while, Fr Reynolds had undergone extreme personal trauma as a result of the programme and the delays in clearing his name.

Costs

At this stage, Fr Reynolds, according to Mr Dore, had felt like a "social pariah".

Meanwhile, Pat Kenny yesterday said he would happily interview Sean Gallagher again and bore him "no ill will" following his comments on the 'Tweetgate' presidential debate.

Mr Gallagher this week hit out at RTE and Mr Kenny for how they handled a tweet read out during the 'Frontline' debate.

"I just don't understand why he is making an issue of it and particularly why he has personalised it," Mr Kenny said.

"I was just doing my job."

Irish Independent

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