The RTÉ board is expected to reject criticism by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it failed to waive legal privilege for an inquiry into the Prime Time Investigates programme at a special meeting with Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, today.
Mr Rabbitte sought an urgent meeting with the RTÉ board, which was due to be held at 8am, following the publication of the highly critical report by the BAI-appointed investigator Anna Carragher on Friday.
The report found the “Mission to Prey” programme had breached the Broadcasting Act 2009 and sharply criticised its making. The programme seriously defamed Galway priest Fr Kevin Reynolds. The BAI also issued a fine of €200,000 to RTÉ.
Mr Rabbitte described the programme as “a shoddy, unprofessional, cavalier, damaging piece of work”.
Those strong comments, combined with the demand for today’s meeting, has increased speculation that Mr Rabbitte may seek resignations from RTÉ at board level.
Pressure on Tom Savage, the RTÉ chairman, intensified at the weekend after Fr Reynolds’s solicitor, Robert Dore, claimed responsibility for the station’s handling of the controversy rested with Mr Savage.
The fallout of the controversy has resulted in reporter Aoife Kavanagh resigning from RTÉ, while its head of news, Ed Mulhall, announced his retirement.
Two other senior executives involved in the programme, current affairs editor Ken O’Shea and the documentary’s executive producer Brian Páircéir, have been reassigned.
However, the RTÉ board is expected to mount a defence against comments by the BAI which expressed regret that it had not waived its right to solicitor/client privilege with its in-house team of lawyers.
A senior RTÉ source pointed out that the BAI stated the station had fully co-operated with Ms Carragher’s inquiry.
It is believed RTÉ board members will point out to Mr Rabbitte that the station was never asked by the BAI or Ms Carragher to waive its privilege on legal advice it had received from its own lawyers about the allegations made against Fr Reynolds.
RTÉ’s insistence it was not asked to waive its privilege also conflicts with remarks made by BAI chairman Bob Collins on Sunday, when he maintained RTÉ had told Ms Carragher it would not waive its claim.
Several RTÉ sources have been highly critical of the BAI investigation. The Irish Examiner understands Ms Carragher initially only sought to interview Ms Kavanagh and Mr Mulhall as part of the inquiry, despite the central involvement of Mr O’Shea and Mr Páircéir in the programme. They were subsequently asked to meet Ms Carragher.
The meeting with Ms Kavanagh lasted just 25 minutes.
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