Kavanagh says BAI treated her unfairly

Sat, May 12, 2012, 01:00

AOIFE KAVANAGH, the journalist who presented the controversial Mission to Prey programme, has claimed she was unfairly treated in the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s (BAI) report on the issue.

Ms Kavanagh, who resigned from RTÉ last week after the authority published a critical report on the programme, says in a submission to the BAI that the report is deficient and contains “material inaccuracies”.

In a separate submission, executive producer Brian Páircéir claims the report is incomplete and inaccurate and that the procedures used during the investigation were ad hoc and flawed.

The authority fined RTÉ €200,000 after finding that the State broadcaster breached principles of fairness and privacy in the programme which falsely alleged that Fr Kevin Reynolds fathered a child while a missionary in Kenya.

Ms Kavanagh claims Anna Carragher’s failure to put assertions and comments, which were later used in the report, to her during interview is a “serious breach of natural justice”.

She accuses Ms Carragher of discounting her experience as a reporter since joining RTÉ in 1996 by making a distinction between Prime Time and Prime Times Investigates. Ms Kavanagh worked previously on Prime Time but the Mission to Prey programme was her first work for its investigative strand.

She rejects the contention in the report that “no attempt” was made to find receipts to support the allegation that Fr Reynolds paid school fees in Kenya for the child he was alleged to have fathered. While no documents were found, attempts were made to find a paper trail, she says.

Ms Kavanagh says while she accepted criticism in the report “that does not mean that the journalism fell short of the required standards”.

In his submission, Mr Páircéir records his “continuing regret” at the circumstances which led to the defamation of Fr Reynolds, but says it is crucial that his role in the matter is clearly established.

The report is not a full account of the circumstances behind the making of the programme, he says, and does not fully explain his role in its production.

“The report draws conclusions about matters relating to me and my conduct which Ms Carragher did not sufficiently inquire into, and which, in consequence, I had no way of addressing.”

In support of this argument, he says he was not asked by Ms Carragher about certain issues, including the RTÉ producer guidelines. “Small sections of my interview have been quoted throughout the report which, as with any extract taken out of context, does not present a full and fair account of what had happened.”

Mr Páircéir says that he was aware of, and operated within, RTÉ programme guidelines at all times, and says RTÉ acknowledged this in its submission to the authority.

As a result no permission was required from the director general for the surreptitious recordings of Fr Reynolds, a point that was the subject of criticism in the report.

He also says that no member of RTÉ’s legal team was interviewed.