RTÉ agrees to pay priest damages for defamation

RTÉ is agreed to pay compensatory and aggravated damages to Fr Kevin Reynolds after he settled his action for defamation arising from the broadcaster’s Prime Time Investigates programme, “Mission to Prey”.

Details of the compensation were not divulged. It is believed the damages will run into seven figures.

The Mill Hill Missionary Society priest also secured a correction order from the High Court under Section 30 (1) of the Defamation Act 2009, which requires publication of the correction of the defamation.

Fr Reynolds, aged 65, parish priest of St Cuan’s, Ahascragh, Co Galway, brought proceedings against RTÉ following a broadcast of Prime Time Investigates on May 23, 2011, which purported to deal with the alleged abuse of children and teenagers by Irish missionaries in Africa.

The allegations in the programme concerning Fr Reynolds were also discussed on an episode of Morning Ireland on Radio 1 the following morning.

At the High Court yesterday, Mr Justice Éamon de Valera was told RTÉ fully and unreservedly apologised to Fr Reynolds; acknowledged it grossly defamed him; and that the programmes ought never to have been broadcast.

The court heard the Prime Time Investigates programme had published a number of wholly untrue allegations about Fr Reynolds, including that he had raped a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982 while working there as a missionary; he fathered a child with the girl; and abandoned her and the child, named Sheila.

The High Court was told that, in the 16 days between the interview with Fr Reynolds and the broadcast, RTÉ was afforded every opportunity to review its position. It had ample opportunity to verify its “very credible third party source” but did not, and proceeded with the broadcast “in the teeth of firm denials”.

In the wake of the broadcast, Fr Reynolds was removed from public ministry and from his home, and labelled “a criminal, a paedophile and a rapist”.

On June 23, Fr Reynolds told RTÉ he would undergo a paternity test to vindicate his character. However, on June 30, RTÉ wrote it would stand over the allegations made in the broadcast. The paternity test proved that Fr Reynolds was not the father of the child, Sheila.

In a statement, RTÉ accepted the choices it made, prior to the broadcast, in the manner in which the case was approached and the manner in which the paternity test was addressed subsequent to the broadcast, were “utterly misjudged and wrong and have had an utterly devastating impact on Fr Kevin Reynolds”.

Picture: Fr Kevin Reynolds: Took legal case. Picture: Collins Courts

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