RTÉ issues apology, says no damages paid to Richard Burke

Solicitor says ex-archbishop a ‘truthful person’ who vehemently denies accusations

Former archbishop Richard Burke will have "no exposure to costs" after his legal team settled a High Court defamation action against RTÉ for its 'Mission to Prey' documentary.

Speaking outside the Four Courts on Thursday, his solicitor Robert Dore insisted the ex-clergyman, who was accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a parishioner who was under the age of consent while ministering in Nigeria in the late 1980s, is a "truthful person".

"My client, Richard Burke, has consistently and vehemently denied the accusations made against him by Dolores Atwood, as broadcast by RTÉ in the 'Mission to Prey' programme," he said, flanked by Mr Burke and his sister Joanne.

“My client is a truthful person. This litigation has been compromised to my client’s satisfaction, and he has no exposure to costs,” he added.


He also thanked senior counsels who represented Mr Burke during the case, which began last Wednesday.

RTÉ's managing director of news and current affairs Kevin Bakhurst said it has made a contribution to the claimant's legal costs, but said "no damages whatsoever" have been paid to the former Archbishop, who resigned in 2010.

A statement from the national broadcaster read: “RTÉ states that in a programme entitled ‘A Mission to Prey’ broadcast in May 2011, it alleged Richard Burke had sexual relations with a girl, Dolores Atwood, who was underage.

“RTÉ accepts it incorrectly stated in the programme that Richard Burke had declined to be interviewed for the programme and for this RTÉ apologises.

“RTÉ acknowledges that Richard Burke has consistently and vehemently denied these allegations, and has done so throughout his evidence at this hearing.

“Dolores Atwood stands over her allegations, and RTÉ considers her to be a sincere and honourable person. Richard Burke and RTÉ agree this matter is now closed.”

The case was concluded before Ms Atwood was due to give further evidence to the court on Thursday, but she said she was “happy” an agreement had been reached between the two parties.

In his submissions to the court last week, Mr Burke (66) admitted to having sex with Ms Atwood, but insisted that she was above the age of consent when the “inappropriate” relationship that was exposed in the 2011 programme began.