Saturday 16 December 2017

RTE chiefs kept on full pay as they 'step aside' for probe

Mark Hilliard

TWO senior RTE chiefs who have temporarily "stepped aside" over the Fr Kevin Reynolds debacle will remain on full pay, the Irish Independent understands.

Ed Mulhall, managing director of RTE news and current affairs, and Ken O'Shea, editor of current affairs, both announced their decision last night.

It comes as the RTE board described the ongoing scandal as the most serious editorial question at the broadcaster in more than 40 years.

Both men will remain away from their roles until the completion of a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) inquiry into the 'Mission to Prey' programme.

Meanwhile, 'Prime Time Investigates' reporter Aoife Kavanagh and executive producer Brian Pairceir are to be removed from on-air programming for the same duration, although both are likely to remain working in a behind-the-scenes capacity.

The BAI is due to report in two months on exactly how the programme -- which wrongly accused the Galway priest of fathering a child in Africa -- managed to get it so wrong.

Two separate RTE investigations, under the supervision of director general Noel Curran and Professor John Horgan respectively, are due to be completed by December 15.

The move followed a lengthy meeting of the RTE board yesterday and comes on foot of mounting pressure on the broadcaster to demonstrate full accountability.

Sources at Montrose said that both Mr Mulhall and Mr O'Shea offered to stand aside, with the agreement of Mr Curran, and were not forced to do so.

In a statement yesterday the broadcaster said the move was taken to "remove any possible doubt about the objectivity and impartiality of RTE's news and current affairs services at this time and is taken without prejudice".

All "relevant" staff members will continue to engage with the RTE and BAI probes.

In a measure of the seriousness of the situation, the RTE board last night described the libel case and its fallout as "the most serious editorial question that has arisen since the late 1960s".

Doubts

It said that its concerns "centre on the wrong done to Fr Kevin Reynolds and they extend to questions about the very title of the programme and to doubts about the possibility of fair treatment for priests and religious in broadcast coverage of public affairs".

It said that when the broadcaster made a mistake it must ensure there was no cover-up and no rush to self-protection.

As part of its efforts to be seen as transparent and open, RTE said it would make available to the BAI the findings of its own inquiries.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last night: "I welcome the fact that RTE has announced it will co-operate and co-operate fully with the inquiry into the Fr Reynolds libel."

Irish Independent

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