Irish state broadcaster RTE has admitted that heads may roll after suspending the TV program which libeled a missionary priest to Africa.
RTE’s director general Noel Curran has taken the ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme off the air in the wake of a massive $1.5million libel payment to Fr Kevin Reynolds.
The priest, now based in Galway, was accused by programme makers of sexually assaulting a teenage girl, making her pregnant and abandoning mother and child when he served in Kenya in the 1980s.
The Irish national broadcaster went ahead with the programme even after Fr Reynolds offered to take a paternity test to prove his innocence.
An internal review is already underway at RTE while the Irish government has ordered a complete investigation into the debacle by its Broadcasting Authority.
Ireland’s press ombudsman, Professor John Horgan, is also examining in the issues raised by the ‘Mission to Prey’ programme aired last May.
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Director general Curran, announcing the suspension of the series, admitted to the gravity of the libel and the hurt caused to Fr Reynolds and his family.
“This was one of the gravest editorial mistakes ever made by RTE,” confessed Curran.
“We have a proud record at this station but we must take this move now to restore public faith in RTE as a broadcaster.
“Recommendations as to what we do next will be brought to the RTÉ board after December 15 when Mr Horgan completes his review. I’d like to state clearly, nothing will be ruled out in those recommendations.”
A statement issued later by the station read: “No conclusion has been ruled in or out by RTE in terms of final decisions which might be taken in this matter.”
A government spokesperson confirmed that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte had ordered an inquiry, the first since 1969, due to ‘general public disquiet over the broadcast’.