RTÉ programme 'fair' - broadcasting body

 

THE COMPLIANCE committee of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland reviewed the Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Preyprogramme last August following a complaint and concluded that in both it and a Frontline debate which followed, “the subject matter was treated fairly and the content was fair to all interests concerned.”

It said “there was a wide range of significant viewpoints included and the persons against whom allegations were made were afforded a right of reply.” No one against whom allegations were made on Mission to Preyappeared on the Frontlineprogramme.

Its observations are made in a decision rejecting a complaint by Mark Vincent Healy which arose from a decision by Prime Time Investigatesto drop an interview with him from Mission to Preyand RTE’s use of a 28-second clip from it at the beginning of the Frontlineprogramme.

In March 2009 a Holy Ghost (Spiritan) priest Fr Henry Maloney was found guilty of abusing Mr Healy and another man when both were pupils at St Mary’s College, Rathmines, Dublin. The abuse took place between 1969 and 1973, when Fr Moloney was transferred to Sierra Leone. Mr Healy was aged between nine and 12 and a pupil at the junior and senior schools there when the abuse took place.

Fr Maloney was given a suspended sentence due to ill-health. He was previously convicted of child abuse in 2000 and served an 18-month sentence. A second St Mary’s priest accused by Mr Healy was Fr Arthur Carragher, who died in Canada on January 10th last. This priest admitted abusing two other boys.

Last February Mr Healy agreed “reluctantly” to be interviewed for the Mission to Prey programme “in the hopes of doing something for the pain and suffering of Irish children abused by Irish missionaries,” as he put it in a letter of complaint to the broadcasting authority on July 27th.

In it he referred to the “dubious” allegation made against Fr Kevin Reynolds in the programme when his own interview detailed the abuse of Irish children by Irish missionaries which “was not in doubt as there were clear convictions and admissions by two Irish missionary priests.”

Yet, he continued, “less than seven hours before going on air uncontested reports of the sexual abuse of Irish children was dropped from the programme”.

He claimed this compromised the “objectivity and impartiality” of Mission to Prey.A 28-second clip of his interview used at the beginning of Frontlinewas “used out of context and was unfair”, he said. He had been used in a way “which showed little sensitivity to the enormous pain and suffering he has endured in his life as a result of one of the Irish missionary orders”, he said.

In assessing his complaint the broadcasting authority compliance committee said: “Overall, the committee considered that the subject matter was treated fairly and the content was fair to all interests concerned.There was a wide range of significant viewpoints included and the persons against whom allegations were made were afforded a right of reply.”

Its ruling came the month after Fr Reynolds instituted High Court proceedings for defamation against RTE. The court proceedings began in early July.

The authority’s compliance committee is to meet today to consider Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte’s request for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding RTÉ’s defamation of Fr Reynolds.