Wednesday 22 November 2017

RTE libel inquiry won't consider staff sanctions

Mark Hilliard

AN independent report on the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel scandal at RTE is expected to contain about 20 recommendations -- but it will not refer to disciplinary action concerning the 'Prime Time Investigates' team, sources have indicated.

The findings by Professor John Horgan are due to be presented to the RTE board today but its publication will be delayed until a separate Broadcasting Authority of Ireland inquiry is complete. A third, internal report is also due to be presented to the board today.

Last May's 'Prime Time Investigates' 'Mission to Prey' programme falsely accused Galway priest Fr Reynolds of fathering a child in Africa. He successfully sued the broadcaster for libel.

RTE sources have said that no reference is likely to be made regarding disciplinary action towards those involved in the programme.

Insiders have indicated that the ongoing scandal has demoralised the newsroom, particularly since Ken O'Shea and Ed Mulhall volunteered to step aside from their respective roles as current affairs editor and managing director of news.

In the aftermath of that decision, both the editorial Christmas party and that of the 'Prime Time' staff were cancelled.

"The newsroom party was supposed to be announced on the day Ed stepped aside but there was a feeling that no one felt like having a party and it was not appropriate," a source said.

Devastating

"Now people think that was over the top. It's had a devastating effect on the news room and on the people working there. People are just trying to get on with it now. Ed was such an integral part of the newsroom; it's a big loss.

"People are hoping that he will come back but think he won't. There is a school of thought that he was there for a long time anyway and he may want to do something else."

It is understood the programme's reporter Aoife Kavanagh and executive producer Brian Pairceir both remain in work but are focused entirely on the three investigations.

Mr O'Shea and Mr Mulhall have both remained absent but have been spotted in the building for meetings with lawyers and management.

"They have told them everything from their point of view as to what happened," a source said.

"The recommendations that (Professor Horgan) has made are likely to be quite general in terms of the process of making programmes and doing doorsteps and that kind of thing.

"It's not going to make any recommendations about any members of staff. Nobody knows what's going on and no one can understand how it happened. They can't get their heads around it," the source said.

Irish Independent

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