Savage told Minister he was unaware of wife's part in RTÉ defamation case


RTÉ CHAIRMAN Tom Savage has told Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte he was not aware of the involvement of his wife, Terry Prone, in the Fr Kevin Reynolds defamation case.

Labour Senator John Whelan has called on the Minister to act following the disclosure that Ms Prone advised Fr Reynolds after he had been defamed by RTÉ.

Mr Rabbitte told The Irish Times yesterday that Mr Savage had “absolutely insisted” he was not aware of his wife’s role.

Mr Whelan, who wrote to the Minister last week, said there was a “glaring and irrefutable conflict of interest”.

His email last Friday followed comments in the media by Fr Reynolds that he contacted Ms Prone, a director with Mr Savage of the Communications Clinic, seeking her assistance to prepare a statement following the Mission to Prey programme.

Fr Reynolds said in the Irish Independent last week the statement was never used, and he had had no contact since with Ms Prone.

The Communications Clinic gave media training to the Irish Missionary Union before the documentary was broadcast.

Fr Reynolds was libelled by the programme which alleged that while a missionary in Africa he raped a Kenyan woman and fathered her child.

In his letter to the Minister, Mr Whelan said the Oireachtas communications committee that questioned RTÉ executives, including Mr Savage, “was asked to believe that the Communications Clinic had merely advised the Irish Missionary Union in relation to the fallout from the programme”.

But he said the situation was different because Ms Prone advised “the primary victim and plaintiff of this programme, Far Reynolds”.

He said “this is at odds with not only information in the public domain but the evidence offered to us at recent hearings” of the committee by Mr Savage.

Mr Whelan said in the letter: “I urge you to act, Minister, and to hold him to account on this glaring and irrefutable conflict of interest.”

Mr Whelan has called a number of times for Mr Savage to resign. On the Marian Finucane programme yesterday Mr Rabbitte said he believed the last three chairpersons of RTÉ had been drawn “from the PR community, and I’m not so sure that that’s a good idea”.

He added: “One of them resigned before because of a putative conflict of interest. Tom Savage is, I think, the third and perhaps the very nature of the business and the nature of RTÉ will give rise to this kind of fear, fervently held by some people.”

He reiterated, however, Mr Savage’s comments to him and repeated last week to the department that he had no knowledge that any part of his company was acting on behalf of Far Reynolds.