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Senior management at RTÉ to step aside during Fr Reynolds inquiries

The producer and reporter on the programme which libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds will also step aside.

Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 6.05pm

RTÉ HAS ANNOUNCED that the managing director of news and the station’s current affairs editor are to step aside during the two inquiries into its libelling of Fr Kevin Reynolds.

In a tweet from RTÉ News this evening, the station said that RTÉ News MD Ed Mulhall and Current Affairs editor Ken O’Shea are to step aside for the duration of the station’s internal inquiry and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s inquiry that was announced by the government yesterday.

The station also said that the executive producer of the Prime Time Investigates programme in question, Brian Páircéir, and the reporter of the story, Aoife Kavanagh, will not involved in on-air programming during the inquiries.

The programme’s producer Mark Lappin has since left RTÉ and now works as a senior producer of CNN’s ‘Connect the World’.

The station was ordered to pay damages to the Catholic priest at the High Court last week following a broadcast in May of this year which falsely claimed that Fr Reynolds had raped a teenage girl and fathered a child with her while working as a missionary in Kenya in the 1980s.

RTÉ later admitted the story was “wholly untrue” and it was revealed that the station went ahead with the programme despite Fr Reynolds denying the allegations and legal correspondence to the same effect.

Six-One news presenter Bryan Dobson has tweeted to say that Mulhall told staff this evening he was stepping down during the investigation “to protect “objectivity” & “integrity” of RTE News.”

Accountability

RTÉ said in a statement that the decision was made “to remove any possible doubt ” about the objectivity of the station.

Speaking on the Six One news, the RTÉ Authority chairman Tom Savage said the decisions were about “sending out the right signals of accountability” and said the station “must be seen to be accountable.”

Yesterday, the government ordered an inquiry into the how the station broadcast the libellous allegations in order to “determine the true facts and circumstances” which led to the story being aired.

Later the broadcaster said it was suspending the next season of Prime Time Investigates until all of its sources have been fully examined and its procedures looked at it in light of the Fr Reynolds case.

Earlier today, the Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said it was important to establish the full facts of the matter before any sackings or resignations took place.

“The questions surround why was the programme was published in the first instance, given what we have learned so far,” Rabbitte said this morning. “But my impression is that the management understand the gravity of it since.”

RTÉ’s internal review is expected to report by 15 December while the BAI has been given two months to carry out its inquiry.

Read: RTÉ suspends next season of Prime Time Investigates after Fr Reynolds case >

Pat Rabbitte: Heads should not roll at RTÉ… yet >

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Hugh O'Connell

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