RTÉ given report on libelling of priest


RTÉ IS to find out shortly if a fine of up to €250,000 is to be imposed upon it as a result of the station’s libel of Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has sent a copy of the independent report into the matter along with notification of any sanction to RTÉ for consideration.

The station will be given 14 days to respond or make submissions.

At the end of the process the BAI will publish the report into the libel action and announce any financial sanctions it might impose on the broadcaster.

It has the power to impose a fine of up to €250,000.

In a brief statement issued yesterday evening the authority confirmed it had made a decision on how it was going to deal with RTÉ “and, in accordance with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2009, will now proceed to notify RTÉ of this decision. In doing so, the BAI will also furnish RTÉ with the report of its independent investigation into the programme.

“As the process associated with this investigation – as set out in the Broadcasting Act – is still ongoing, the BAI cannot comment further at this stage.”

Former BBC Northern Ireland executive Anna Carragher was asked to investigate any breaches of section 39 (1) (b) which requires broadcasters ensure the broadcast treatment of current affairs is fair to all interests concerned and the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner. She was also asked to consider if, in making the programme, the privacy of any individual was unreasonably encroached upon.

Fr Reynolds was “doorstepped” by a Prime Time Investigates crew after First Communion Mass in his parish in Ahascragh, Co Galway, on May 7th last year.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte called on the BAI to examine the Prime Time Investigates programme which alleged Fr Reynolds had raped a minor while working as a priest in Kenya and abandoned a child fathered with her.

It is the first such investigation under section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

Fr Reynolds won a substantial out-of-court settlement when RTÉ apologised in the High Court for libelling him in a broadcast entitled “A Mission to Prey”, which was shown on May 18th last year.

The BAI’s compliance committee appointed the former BBC Northern Ireland controller Ms Carragher to investigate the libel incident.

She has since reported back to the committee, which in turn has made its recommendations to the BAI executive who will decide what, if any, sanction should be imposed on RTÉ.

Ms Carragher took written and oral submissions from all parties.

Her investigation would likely have covered the source of the original false allegation, legal proceedings that followed the broadcast of the programme and the reason why RTÉ decided to go ahead with the broadcast when Fr Reynolds had offered to take a paternity test.

A spokeswoman for RTÉ News said last night it was still in “the dark” in relation to the content of the Reynolds report as they had not yet received any correspondence from the BAI.