Belfast Telegraph

Defamed priest not consulted by BAI

A priest defamed by RTE was not interviewed by the broadcasting watchdog during its investigation, it has emerged.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) said it was only permitted to investigate the actions of the broadcaster and its Prime Time Investigates programme, which wrongly claimed Father Kevin Reynolds had fathered a child.

A spokeswoman said no interview was sought with Fr Reynolds or his legal team as it would have been outside the BAI's remit. She added: "The BAI is not in the position to hear evidence from all sides, or decide if somebody was libelled."

The "Mission To Prey" programme, aired on May 23 last year, falsely accused Fr Reynolds of raping a minor and fathering a child while working in Kenya 30 years ago. The missionary priest later won a substantial out-of-court settlement after he took a libel action against the national broadcaster.

RTE launched internal and external investigations into the matter while the BAI inquiry - ordered by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte - is due within weeks.

Fr Reynolds' solicitor, Robert Dore, said he also thought, at a basic level, that the person who was injured in the programme would have been consulted in the investigation.

Mr Dore said: "I think that we certainly could have contributed as to the manner in which RTE chose to go ahead and broadcast the programme in the teeth of protestations of innocence from Fr Reynolds to undergo a paternity test, the manner in which RTE chose to conduct a defence to those proceedings, their remaining steadfast to their belief they could establish the truth of what they had said right to up to the results of the paternity test, causing Fr Reynolds daily misery."

Mr Dore has written to the BAI and RTE - which will be issued with a copy of the report this week to reply to the findings - before it is made public. He said: "We would have a keen interest in what the decision is and what the contents of the report were."

The BAI confirmed it had received the hand-delivered letter on Tuesday and that the request was under consideration.

On Tuesday, RTE announced its head of news, Ed Mulhall, had quit and that the award-winning Prime Time Investigates was being taken off air for good over the defamatory programme.

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