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RTÉ internal review expected within weeks after 'wholly untrue' allegations

RTÉ apologised at the High Court yesterday to Fr Kevin Reynolds for false accusations made against him in a Prime Time Investigates programme in May.

RTÉ EXPECTS TO have an internal review completed within weeks following yesterday’s apology to a Catholic priest in the High Court over untrue allegations broadcast last May.

The High Court ordered the national broadcaster to apologise yesterday for false accusations made against Fr Kevin Reynolds in a Prime Time Investigates programme earlier this year.

The Prime Time programme alleged that Fr Reynolds was the father of a child conceived with a teenage girl when he worked as a missionary in Africa. RTÉ had already issued an apology for the programme last month, acknowledging that the claims were “baseless”.

TheJournal.ie understands that an internal review is now underway at RTÉ and is expected to be completed in weeks.

It is understood the the chain of command went from the reporter who had the story, Aoife Kavanagh, to producer Mark Lappin, to executive producer Brian Pairceir to current affairs editor Ken O’Shea and up to managing director of news Ed Mulhall.

But who gave the final decision to broadcast and whether the story made it all the way up that chain of command is unclear. Producer Mark Lappin has since left RTÉ and now works as a senior producer of CNN’s ‘Connect the World’. The other four all remain at RTÉ.

The Irish Independent carries comments from RTÉ spokesman who says that possible sackings is not “the best way” for the broadcaster to learn lessons from the issue.

In an apology broadcast on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, which covered the story the day after it was broadcast, the programme acknowledged that its accusations were “wholly untrue” as well as “serious” and “damaging” to Fr Reynolds.

It also accepted that the accusations were broadcast despite a denial by Fr Reynolds to Kavanagh on-camera, correspondence between the former Bishop in Kenya which said the story was false, solicitors letters from Fr Reynolds to the same effect, and an offer from Fr Reynolds to undergo a paternity test.

The apology acknowledged that the allegations “ought never to have been broadcast”.

Yesterday the Head of the Association of Catholic Priests said the fact RTÉ had to apologise should be “a wake-up call” to journalists in this country and how the Catholic Church is covered in light of the various abuse scandals that have emerged in recent years.

Read: RTÉ apology to priest in High Court “a wake-up call” >

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Hugh O'Connell

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