Ex-archbishop settles action against RTE


Tim Healy

FORMER Catholic Archbishop Richard Burke has settled his High Court defamation action against RTE.

He took the case over a May 2011 Prime Time Investigates programme, Mission to Prey, in which he claimed he was wrongly depicted as a paedophile.

RTE deputy director general Kevin Bakhurst insisted afterwards it had paid "no damages whatsoever" to Mr Burke under the settlement, but had made a "contribution" to his costs.

In a statement afterwards, Mr Burke's solicitor Robert Dore said his client is a "man of truth" who has "consistently and vehemently" denied allegations he had underage sex with Dolores Atwood.

The settlement meant Mr Burke has "no exposure to costs", the statement added.

Mr Burke (66), a native of Co Tipperary, was ordained a priest of the Kiltegan Fathers in 1975, and afterwards served as a priest, bishop and archbishop in Nigeria until he resigned as Archbishop of Benin City in May 2010 over a failure to adhere to his vow of celibacy.


In his proceedings, he alleged the programme wrongly presented him as a paedophile who sexually abused Ms Atwood when she was a 13-year-old girl and had sex with her when she was 14.

He said the first time he had sex with Ms Atwood was when she was 20 and he was 40. He also claimed he paid her €176,000 after she "leaned" on him because he feared she would disclose details of their relationship.

RTE denied it had defamed Mr Burke and pleaded in court that the programme did not mean he was a paedophile.

It pleaded the programme meant he sexually molested Ms Atwood when she was 13 and had sex with her at 14 and said it stood over those claims.

It said Ms Atwood would say she was given sums of money over a period of years to withdraw complaints made by her to the Kiltegan Fathers and the congregation in Rome about Mr Burke, and that she regretted taking the money.

RTE accepted it had incorrectly stated in the programme that Mr Burke had declined to be interviewed for the programme "and for that it apologises", the statement said.

The case began last week and was due to enter its eighth day when the jury was told the matter had settled.