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Fr Kevin Reynolds Photo by: Google Images

Irish missionary priest wins massive libel damages

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Fr Kevin Reynolds Photo by: Google Images

An Irish priest on the African missions has received almost $1.5million in a libel settlement from Irish national broadcaster RTE after it claimed he had raped a teenage girl and left her pregnant in Kenya in 1982.

Fr Kevin Reynolds, a priest with the Mill Hill Missionary Society, will receive the ‘significant’ sum in compensation and aggravated damages after the untrue claims were broadcast in the ‘Mission to Prey’ TV programme.

The broadcaster apologised to Fr Reynolds, in a lengthy statement read out in court.

Now the parish priest at St Cuan’s, Ahascragh, in County Galway, the 65-year-old priest served legal papers on RTE after the Prime Time TV programme concerning the alleged abuse of children and teenagers by Irish missionaries.

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Allegations made against Fr Reynolds were repeated on RTE Radio the following morning.
Senior Counsel for the priest, Jack Fitzgerald, told the court that the broadcaster said it fully and unreservedly apologised to Fr Reynolds, acknowledged it grossly defamed him, and said the programmes ought never to have been broadcast.

“The Prime Time Investigates programme had claimed that Fr Reynolds raped a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982 while working as a missionary, fathered a child with her and abandoned her and the child, named Sheila,” said the statement from Fitzgerald.

Fr Reynolds denied the allegations when they were put to him by an RTE reporter two weeks before the programme was broadcast.

His legal team contacted RTÉ on May 11th, repeated his denials and demanded the accusations and film not be broadcast and that he be given an immediate retraction and apology.

Prime Time then contacted the Galway priest’s solicitor and told him that they had a ‘very credible third party source and other independent evidence that the priest had contributed financially to the education of his alleged child’.

Bishop Sulumeti of the diocese of Kakamega in Kenya, where Fr Reynolds had worked, also contacted the programme makers. He described Fr Reynolds as ‘an exemplary priest and also denied the allegations.

Fitzgerald said: “In the 16 days between the interview with Fr Reynolds and the broadcast, RTÉ was afforded every opportunity to review its position and remove any reference to him from the programme.

“It had ample opportunity to verify its ‘very credible third party source’ but did not take such steps and instead chose to proceed in the teeth of firm denials by Fr Reynolds and his former Bishop in Kenya.”

The statement also claimed: “In the wake of the broadcast, Fr Reynolds was removed from public ministry and his home and labelled a criminal, a paedophile and a rapist.”

Eventually Fr Reynolds took a paternity test to prove his innocence after RTÉ wrote to him to say it would stand over the allegations made in the broadcast. The paternity test proved conclusively Fr Reynolds was not the father of the child Sheila.

In a statement, RTÉ accepted the choices it made prior to the broadcast in the way in which the case was approached, and the manner in which the paternity test was addressed subsequent to the broadcast, were ‘utterly misjudged and wrong and have had an utterly devastating impact on Fr Kevin Reynolds’.

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