Second cleric seeks report in defamation case

Sat, Apr 7, 2012, 01:00

LAWYERS FOR a second missionary named in the Prime Time Investigates programme that libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds are seeking discovery of documents from RTÉ in a separate defamation case.

The statement of claim by former archbishop Richard Burke, who alleges he was falsely accused of child abuse when he was a priest in Nigeria, has been completed by Robert Dore, the same solicitor who represents Fr Reynolds.

Meanwhile, RTÉ has received the report commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland into the Mission to Prey programme which libelled Fr Reynolds.

The broadcaster confirmed yesterday that director general Noel Curran had taken receipt of the report along with the authority’s decision on what fine is to be imposed, if any, for errors made in the programme.

A spokesman said RTÉ was likely to take the full 14 days allowed to it under broadcasting legislation in which to assess the report and respond to the authority.

The station has not ruled out appealing the decision to the High Court, but this is considered unlikely.

The report, which is understood to find that the programme was unfair to Fr Reynolds and breached his privacy, is unlikely to be published for another three weeks at least.

Mr Dore has sought a copy of the report, drawn up by former BBC Northern Ireland executive Anna Carragher, but the authority says it is not in a position to do this until RTÉ responds and the process is completed.

Fr Burke, who was Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria until he resigned in 2010, has admitted to a consensual sexual relationship with a woman, but says she was an adult at the time.

His case was referred to in the programme broadcast last May, which examined allegations of clerical sexual abuse by Irish missionaries in Africa.

The programme included a false claim that Fr Reynolds sexually abused a young girl and fathered a child by her – an allegation that resulted in a substantial libel payout by the State broadcaster to the priest.

Mr Dore declined to comment on the case being taken by Fr Burke, a member of the Kiltegan Fathers, which is being contested by RTÉ.

Earlier this week, RTÉ announced a major shake-up of personnel, including the retirement of the head of news and current affairs Ed Mulhall and the introduction of new journalism guidelines.