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RTÉ is hit with €200,000 fine for defaming parish priest
By Catherine Hickey Irish broadcaster RTÉ has been hit with a massive €200,000 euro fine over its defamatory Mission to Prey programme, which libelled a Catholic missionary priest.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) investigation into the Prime Time Investigates programme found it broadcast serious, damaging and untrue allegations about Fr Kevin Reynolds by wrongly accusing him of raping a minor and fathering a child while working in Kenya 30 years ago. RTÉ admitted the defamation was one of the most significant errors made in its broadcasting history and that the material should never have been broadcast.
The inquiry into the Mission To Prey programme, carried out by former BBC controller in Northern Ireland Anna Carragher, criticised standards in the state broadcaster.
It concluded that the secret
Irish broadcaster now faces a ‘fundamental challenge’ as it tries to re-establish credibility following damning report filming of the cleric and a doorstep interview was an unreasonable breach of his privacy and that there was a significant failure of editorial and managerial controls in the organisation which failed to anticipate, monitor or control the possibility of such a breach.
It also failed to recognise the grave injustice which could be done to Fr Reynolds.
Note-taking was either nonexistent, or grossly inadequate notes made by the editorial team and there was an almost complete absence of documentary evidence.
There was found to be a lack of scrutiny and challenge with the department as well as a failure to question colleagues, with second-hand repetition of gossip treated as corroboration
The broadcaster did not waive its claim to privilege in the solicitor/client relationship between itself and its in-house legal staff.
Fr Reynolds, who was not interviewed as part of the BAI investigation, offered to take a paternity test to prove his innocence before the current affairs programme was aired.
He was later cleared when two tests proved he was not the child’s father. RTÉ apologised to the priest, accepting all the allegations were baseless and without foundation.
It is also have said to have made an out-ofcourt settlement of between €750,000 (£619,000) and five million euro (£4.1 million) after he took libel action.
Several senior figures at the broadcaster either quit or were sidelined over the production. RTÉ’s head of news, Ed Mulhall, and current affairs editor Ken O’Shea, both stepped down temporarily while the independent inquiry into the damning errors at the flagship investigative series was carried out.
However Mr Mulhall, 56, took early retirement and Mr O’Shea moved to a new role at RTÉ Two before the end of the investigation. Mark Lappin, producer of the programme, left the station to work for CNN.
Continued on page 2
Andy Garcia wears his Cross with pride
Hollywood star Andy Garcia says he took his latest film role very seriously.
In For Greater Glory, Garcia plays a rogue general, Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, who gives up retirement to defend the
Cuba’s oppressed Catholics.
“I’m Catholic and I play a guy who’s Catholic. He’s not really very Catholic at the beginning of the movie, but he grows more into it as the movie goes on.”
Full story – page 12
Bishop defends the ‘stranger in our midst’ and says migrants should not become ‘scapegoats and targets of popular frustration with the economy’ Page 4
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