RTÉ's head of news steps down

Tue, Apr 3, 2012, 01:00

RTÉ’s head of current affairs Ed Mulhall has retired and the editor of Prime Time Investigates Ken O’Shea has resigned from the programme over the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel affair.

The announcement was made to staff in RTÉ this afternoon in a message from director general Noel Curran.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) announced yesterday that it had completed its report into the Prime Time Investigates programme that had libelled Fr Reynolds.  It had sent copies of the independent investigation into the programme to RTÉ. The investigation was carried out by former BBC Northern Ireland controller Anna Carragher.

The Mission to Prey programme, which was broadcast last May, falsely accused Fr Reynolds of raping a minor while working as a missionary in Africa and fathering a child by her.  Fr Reynolds sued the broadcaster and accepted a substantial out-of-court settlement.

The announcement by Mr Curran was made in advance of the publication of the Reynolds report. It is not due to be published for another fortnight as the new Broadcasting Act 2009 allows RTÉ 14 days to respond to it.

The Prime Time Investigates programme is to be scrapped and plans for a new investigative television documentaries will be announced ahead of the autumn schedule. A new current affairs investigation unit will be set up supplying television, radio and online.

Mr Mulhall and Mr O’Shea stepped down temporarily last year while the independent inquiry into the controversy was carried out. Prime Time executive producer Brian Pairceir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh were also taken off air while the inquiry was ongoing.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Curran confirmed that Mr Mulhall retired as of last month. He had been director of news and managing director of news and current affairs for a total of 14 years.  The director general praised Mr Mulhall for his “dedication, professionalism and commitment to RTÉ” and for his “expertise and wisdom”. 

Mr Curran also acknowledged that Mr Mulhall had made a significant contribution to new journalism guidelines for RTÉ staff.

Mr O’Shea has resigned as editor of current affairs, but is not resigning from RTÉ. Instead he is being transferred to an assignment in television reporting to the commissioning editor for RTÉ Two.

All RTÉ editorial staff will be issued with and trained in new journalism guidelines which have been developed over the last three months. All editorial staff must attend training on these guidelines in the next two months.

Mr Curran also announced that an external investigations board chaired by former Northern Ireland ombudsman Dr Maurice Hayes will be set up to look into the Fr Reynolds programme. It will also include former BBC deputy news editor Richard Ayre and rights commissioner Gaye Cunningham.

A separate set of guidelines has been completed arising out of report by Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan in December 2011.