RTÉ to face new censure for priest allegation

More heads are expected to roll at RTÉ after yesterday’s scathing report on its handling of the Prime Time Investigates documentary which made false and damaging allegations against Fr Kevin Reynolds.

Reporter and presenter Aoife Kavanagh’s resignation last night was followed by a stinging attack on the 13-member RTÉ board by Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, who said his confidence in them had been “shaken” and that the report had exposed the Prime Time Investigates programme “to be a shoddy, unprofessional, cavalier, damaging piece of work”.

He has demanded a meeting of the board take place on Tuesday morning to discuss the fallout from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland report which found the broadcast had made serious, damaging and untrue allegations against Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The BAI, which has fined RTÉ €200,000 for seriously breaching the Broadcasting Act 2009, also found that methods employed in making the programme — which included secret filming and a doorstep interview — unreasonably encroached on the priest’s privacy.

“My confidence has been shaken, I have to say, but I have to hear what they [the board] have to say, because it’s fair to say they scarcely feature at all in the report that we have before us,” said Mr Rabbitte.

“I intend to leave the board and the chairman under no misapprehension about the huge challenge that now confronts them in terms of restoring the trust that was the link with the Irish people,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte said it was “beyond belief that a programme that had won such a high reputation for its investigative journalism should put together a piece of work based on, frankly, no more than uncorroborated gossip”.

Ms Kavanagh issued a statement last night saying that she wanted to apologise to Fr Reynolds for the hurt caused to him by the programme.

“I would also like to apologise to those who work with victims of sexual abuse if this controversy has in any way made their work more difficult,” Ms Kavanagh said.

She said that while she acknowledged mistakes were made, she believed she acted objectively and in good faith throughout the making of the programme.

She and the other RTÉ staff at the centre of the controversy — producer Mark Lappin, executive producer Brian Páircéir, and current affairs editor Ken O’Shea — disagreed with some aspects of Anna Carragher’s report and expressed concern she had not sought to interview anyone from RTÉ’s legal affairs department, or a Kenyan journalist who had assisted in research for the programme.

Some of the journalists insisted the RTÉ lawyers had been involved in the decision-making process at all appropriate stages, contrary to Ms Carragher’s findings.

RTÉ director general Noel Curran said the BAI findings and Ms Carragher’s report did not make easy reading for RTÉ.

“We are not proud of the picture presented in the findings. However, we have learned from, and we will continue to learn from, these grave errors.”

He maintained a great deal had changed in recent months at RTÉ and stated that more will change as the broadcaster “embeds new structures which have been introduced through our work to overcome this regrettable period in RTÉ’s history”.


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