Savage asked to clarify PR position

Thu, May 31, 2012, 01:00

THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists has called on RTÉ chairman Tom Savage to make a full statement on the involvement of his public relations firm in advising religious orders affected by the Mission to Prey programme which libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The union says programme-makers in the State broadcaster are “deeply uncomfortable” with the revelation that Mr Savage’s company, the Communications Clinic, advised the Irish Missionary Union before the programme was broadcast in May 2011.

Mr Savage’s wife and business colleague Terry Prone has said he had no involvement in advising the IMU and that she never told him the Communications Clinic was doing this work.

Last week, members of the Oireachtas communications committee criticised Mr Savage over the controversy, which has resulted in a costly libel settlement for RTÉ, a fine of €200,000 and the departure of five journalists involved in the programme.

The NUJ’s Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said yesterday his union appreciated Mr Savage’s robust defence of public service broadcasting at this meeting. He said he was disappointed by the tone of some of the questioning, which contained a “disturbing hostility” towards RTÉ.

Although he had hoped all concerned could move on after this meeting, the latest revelation raised questions Mr Savage needed to address directly, Mr Dooley added. Failure to do so would not be in the interest of RTÉ.

Labour committee member Senator John Whelan said as a result of the revelation over the Communications Clinic and the IMU, he would be calling on chairman Andrew Doyle to recall Mr Savage to give further evidence.