Two paternity tests have shown that a Co Galway-based priest, featured in an RTÉ 'Prime Time Investigates' programme, is not the father of a Kenyan woman, the High Court has been told.
The court heard that Fr Kevin Reynolds, who claims RTÉ accused him of raping a teenage girl in 1982 and fathering a child by her, had been restored to the priesthood since the results of the paternity tests became known.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy today refused to grant judgment for defamation against RTÉ for having failed to enter a defence but ordered the national broadcaster to file one by the end of this month.
He said it was wholly unsatisfactory that RTÉ had not already lodged a defence to the claim for defamation which Fr Reynolds (aged 65) had taken out in early July last.
Solicitor Robert Dore told the court in an affidavit that Fr Reynolds was a Mill Hill Missionary priest who had worked for many years in Africa. The RTÉ “Mission to Prey” programme broadcast in May last alleged he had raped a girl identified as Venerenda who at the time was a minor.
Mr Dore stated that the programme claimed Fr Reynolds had fathered a child, Sheila, as a result of the rape in or about 1982. It had further alleged he had prevailed on the girl to remain silent about the rape or his involvement in it.
Barrister Frank Callanan, S.C., said Fr Reynolds had been Parish Priest of Ahascragh, Co Galway, at the time but had been prevailed on by his Bishop and the Mill Hill Fathers to stand down as a priest.
Fr Reynolds had agreed to take paternity tests which had revealed he was not the father of the girl Sheila. Earlier this month the priest had been informed by a journalist that the DNA tests had proved negative. Following the result of the tests he had been restored to ministry but had not returned to his parish.
Mr Callanan said that in July the Mill Hill Missionaries had received a letter from Fr Reynolds’ alleged daughter stating “Fr Kevin is not my biological father.” This letter had been passed on to RTÉ.
Mr Callanan told the court that RTE had not entered a defence within the normal 28 days and had further failed to file one during an extended period of three weeks. He suggested RTE may have been delaying its defence until the outcome of the tests.
Yesterday he asked Judge McCarthy to grant judgment against RTE and allow Fr Reynolds’ claim to proceed to an assessment of damages before another judge.
Judge Mc Carthy said he would allow RTE until September 29 to file a defence and granted Fr Reynolds leave to bring another motion for judgment within a period of 48 hours should the TV station further fail to enter a defence.
David Keane, S.C., counsel for RTE, said the delay in filing a defence had arisen out of a request to have the first paternity test re-taken and that it only had the results of the second test in the last few days. He agreed both tests had proved Fr Reynolds was not the girl’s father.