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Senator wants RTÉ chair before Oireachtas Committee for a third time

John Whelan is to formally request that Tom Savage appear before the Oireachtas Communications Committee over the role of the Communications Clinic in the Mission to Prey programme.

Tom Savage
Tom Savage
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

LABOUR SENATOR JOHN Whelan is to formally request that the chairman of the RTÉ board, Tom Savage, appear before the Oireachtas Communications Committee for a third time.

Whelan is to write to the chairman of the committee tomorrow in a bid to have Savage appear before the committee for a third time to explain the role of the Communications Clinic – which Savage is a director of – in the Mission to Prey programme which libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds.

Savage and his wife Terry Prone are both directors of the PR firm which advised the Irish Missionary Union (IMU) following the broadcasting of the programme which libelled Fr Reynolds and made a number of allegations against other priests working as missionaries in Africa.

Prone told TheJournal.ie last week that Savage knew nothing about the Communications Clinic’s work with the IMU because of client confidentiality while Savage has maintained there was no conflict of interest  in his work with RTÉ and with the Communications Clinic.

But Whelan described it as “bizarre scenario” if Savage as “founder, business partner, and director of the Communications Clinic” did not know who the PR firm was representing.

“He (Savage) was emphatic that in his tenure as chair no conflict of interest has ever arisen. It would appear there is one,” Whelan told TheJournal.ie

“My concern is not how they ruin their business,” he added. “There appears to be a prima facie case that there is an overlap in what they do.”

‘Significant issues’

Whelan pointed out that an article in the Sunday Business Post on 22 May last year had detailed how the Communications Clinic was representing the IMU, details of which Broadsheet.ie resurrected last week.

Savage told the committee that he did not become aware of the issues over the Prime Time Investigates programme until September.

Whelan said:  ”If the contention is that Terry Prone didn’t tell him about her relation to the Mission to Prey programme and he didn’t become aware of any problems until September is true, then we have to accept that did she not tell him.

But we’d also have to accept that he didn’t see the report on 22 May tha that IMU were being advised by Communications Clinic.

Whelan said that these “significant issues” have arisen since the appearance of Savage before the Committee last month that needed clarification in order for the Committee to make a fair and judicious determination in relation to RTÉ and the Mission to Prey programme.

He said: “In order for that to be a fair and accurate process, it is in the interest of everyone that Mr Savage come back to address the points that I am making in good faith to clarify these points.”

Whelan said he would seek to clarify why Savage did not volunteer the involvement of the Communications Clinic with the IMU “in the interests of transparency and clarity”.

“These are serious matters, central to what we’re discussing and need to be resolved before the committee can make any determination,” he said.

Read: “Your position is untenable” – TDs criticise RTE heads over Mission to Prey

Read: Communications Clinic says Savage knew nothing of Mission to Prey account


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Hugh O'Connell

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