More heads could roll after RTÉ debacle

Heads could roll as Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte confronts the board of the RTÉ Authority tomorrow over the Prime Time Investigates programme Mission To Prey.

Solicitor Robert Dore, who represents defamed priest Fr Kevin Reynolds, said the future of RTÉ Authority chairman Tom Savage and other RTÉ notables was a matter for the minister.

“If the minister makes up his mind that they should resign, I am not here to question or second-guess what the minister will do.”

However, he said Fr Reynolds now simply wanted to “get on with things”.

Mr Dore said if Mr Savage was asked to step down, it could open the way for even more resignations, including, for example, the director general, Noel Curran.

“In my view, if the top man goes, the logic of it is that the person who was responsible or answerable to him is in the same situation,” said Mr Dore.

John Gormley, former environment minister yesterday tweeted: “Just watch how P Rabbitte uses the PT debacle to get rid of Tom Savage.

“It’s being teed up nicely for Tuesday with statements by Ruairi [Quinn, Education Minister] etc.”

Simon Coveney, agriculture minister, said yesterday Mr Rabbitte will have to “ask hard questions and get reassurances” from the board before reporting back to Cabinet.

Speaking on RTÉ yesterday, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland chairman Bob Collins said the broadcaster needed to consider its future approach to legal proceedings in light of the report and its findings.

The BAI report outlined how Prime Time Investigates reporter Aoife Kavanagh had effectively become the only conduit between the station and Fr Reynolds’ legal representatives in advance of the programme being screened.

The report also criticised RTÉ’s decision to claim legal privilege for its own legal affairs department during the BAI probe.

Speaking on This Week, Mr Collins said: “It was shocking this item was approached as it was.

“It was astonishing that it was allowed to be broadcast and it was imperative, as the director general [of RTÉ] has said, that nothing of this kind ever happens again.”

He said there was a real danger that an injustice had been done, yet it had taken time for this to dawn on individuals within RTÉ.

Mr Collins defended the BAI report and the timing of its release, claiming it had been an “effective process” and that it had always been the BAI’s intention to publish it as soon as possible.

He admitted that a leak of briefing notes from the report should not have occurred.

Mr Collins also denied a claim from the National Union of Journalists that submissions to the BAI had effectively been ignored.

Professor John Horgan, the Press Ombudsman, who also carried out a review of editorial processes within RTÉ, said there was a danger of “the baby being thrown out with the bath water” in terms of the national broadcaster’s future news-gathering operation and its work in the aftermath of the BAI findings, even if “there is a lot of bath water”.


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