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Thursday 14 December 2017

Prime Time staff face third probe over priest libel

Paul Melia and Fiach Kelly

ALL staff involved in the production and broadcast of the 'Prime Time Investigates' programme into Fr Kevin Reynolds will be questioned as part of a probe into the affair.

The third and final probe into the Fr Kevin Reynolds affair is expected to be completed within the next month.

An external inquiry commissioned by RTE to examine personnel matters arising from the 'Mission to Prey' programme is expected to make its recommendations before the summer, it emerged last night.

Chaired by former senator and Northern Ireland ombudsman, Maurice Hayes, it was asked last month to investigate and make recommendations about RTE personnel involved in the programme.

Other members of the inquiry team include former deputy chief executive of BBC News, Richard Ayre, and rights commissioner Gaye Cunningham.

However, three of the five key players involved in the programme have since resigned, and will not be obliged to co-operate with the investigation.

Managing director of news and current affairs, Ed Mulhall, took early retirement last month. Producer Mark Lappin has left to join CNN in London while reporter Aoife Kavanagh resigned last Friday on publication of the BAI report.

Current affairs editor Ken O'Shea is in a new role at RTE Two, while 'Prime Time' executive producer Brian Pairceir remains off air.

It is understood that the investigation team will not just focus on editorial staff involved in the programme, but also the role that legal affairs and other departments played. It will examine if all staff complied with rules and guidelines, and can recommend disciplinary action.

The team is examining the BAI report and is expected to interview key personnel.

Inquiry chairman Mr Hayes was not available for comment last night.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is to meet the RTE board at a crunch meeting on Tuesday morning.

Buck

Mr Rabbitte turned up to heat on the board last week, and Fr Reynolds' solicitor Robert Dore yesterday said the buck stops with Tom Savage, the chairman of the board.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney also said the board of RTE has "ultimate" responsibility over programming and editorial decisions, and they will have to assure Mr Rabbitte that mechanisms are being put in place to "ensure that we don't get a repeat of the Fr Reynolds case".

"If they can't do that, well then I think obviously the minister has to consider that very seriously," Mr Coveney told RTE radio.

Mr Rabbitte is expected to recommend what to do with the board at a Cabinet meeting later on Tuesday morning.

Irish Independent

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