Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

RTE chief defiant on priest show

RTE chairman Tom Savage has dismissed calls for his resignation

RTE chairman Tom Savage has insisted only communications minister Pat Rabbitte can force him to step down over the Prime Time Investigates scandal.

The broadcasting boss dismissed calls for his resignation in the wake of the defamation of innocent priest Fr Kevin Reynolds, who was wrongly accused of rape and fathering a child.

"It's up to the minister to decide whether I'm a fit person or not," said Mr Savage. "There are almost no bonuses or kudos for being in the position. Every day I give to the job would be a financial loss for what I could be doing elsewhere. But it is worth doing and to walk away, I believe, would be wrong."

The broadcasting boss, who served as a priest for eight years, came under attack during a grilling from the Oireachtas Communications Committee.

He vehemently denied accusations that he was a spin doctor and also shot down a suggestion from Independent TD Mattie McGrath that he had been coached for the meeting, saying it was "a slur".

Senator John Whelan launched an attack on Mr Savage, saying he was "flabbergasted" by his claims that RTE staff were also victims of the defamation scandal.

The Senator told Mr Savage to come down from his ivory tower and show some respect. He accused Mr Savage of failing to take responsibility for the controversy.

"He is washing his hands of any responsibility for the systematic failures, low morale and poor standards, and the group think which is spawned by a cult of clique and cronyism, which you preside over," Mr Whelan went on.

RTE wrongly accused Fr Reynolds of raping a woman and fathering a child in Kenya in its Prime Time Investigates Mission to Prey programme, which aired last May. A report compiled by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland last month found the broadcaster was guilty of editorial and control management failures.

A government spokesman later confirmed that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte had made no decision to call for Mr Savage's resignation.

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