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Father Kevin Reynolds leaving the High Court in Dublin Photo by: Google Images

RTE bosses stand aside as costs of missionary libel action rise to $3 million

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Father Kevin Reynolds leaving the High Court in Dublin Photo by: Google Images

The biggest libel in the history of Irish state broadcaster RTE could end up costing the station over $3million – as the programme makers step aside pending a series of investigations.

Galway based priest Fr Kevin Reynolds received a settlement believed to be worth $1.5million last week after the station admitted claims that he had raped and impregnated a teenage Kenyan girl then abandoned mother and child were false.

One of the clergy who helped Fr Reynolds pursue RTE through the courts has now said that the total bill, including costs, will end up costing the broadcaster over £3million.

Fr Sean McDonagh, a spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests, made the claim as RTE confirmed that head of news Ed Mulhall, current affairs editor Ken O’Shea, producer Brian Pairceir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh are to stand down temporarily from their roles.

The four will not work in RTE pending the outcome of three separate investigations into the Fr Reynolds libel, one of them ordered by the government’s Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.

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The RTE Authority has also promised to uncover the full details of the decision making process that allowed the libellous programme to be broadcast earlier this year despite repeated denials from Fr Reynolds.

A statement from the Authority said: “There can be no cover-up and no rush to self-protection. We have a legal duty to establish for licence-payers why Fr Kevin Reynolds was falsely accused of raping a minor and having a child by her while working as a missionary in Kenya.

“This libel poses the most serious editorial question that has arisen since the late 1960s in RTÉ broadcasting.”

A statement from RTÉ said all four workers had agreed to step aside pending the investigations. “This decision was taken in order to remove any possible doubt about the objectivity and impartiality of RTÉ’s news and current affairs services at this time,” said the statement.

Fr McDonagh meanwhile has said that the total cost to RTE could top $3million by the time legal costs are added to the personal settlement agreed with Fr Reynolds.

Part of Fr Reynolds negotiating team during the settlement with RTE, Fr McDonagh said money was not a motivation for the former missionary.

“Fr Reynolds had to be persuaded to take money. It was nowhere near his motivation for taking the action. Money was the last thing on his mind. He wanted his good name to be cleared,” said Fr McDonagh.

“The point was pressed home to Fr Reynolds that a damages award would be a measure of the seriousness of the libel against him.”

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