A top Irish journalist has quit her job after a searing report was published into a program she presented that falsely accused a Catholic priest then based in Kenya of fathering a child.
Aoife Kavanagh, an investigative reporter for Ireland’s state owned television service RTE, resigned after an inquiry showed that Father Kevin Reynolds was unjustly accused of raping and fathering a child and sloppy reporting was at the heart of the grave mistakes made in the Prime Times series expose.
The commision of inquiry found the program’s incorrect conclusion was "one of the most significant errors made in broadcasting history."
Kavanagh alleged that during his time as a missionary in Kenya, Fr. Reynolds raped and impregnated a minor named Veneraanda, fathering a child called Sheila. She also alleged that he secretly provided financial support to Sheila over a number of years. Both Veneranda and Sheila were interviewed in the programme to corroborate the allegations. The events were purported to have taken place in the diocese of Kakamega in Kenya.
Prior to to the broadcasting of the show, Father Reynolds volunteered to have DNA testing undertaken to prove his innocence but this offer was refused by RTÉ. Later, two separate and independent DNA tests established that Reynolds was not the father of the child. With this it emerged that the allegations were entirely baseless. However, as a result of the broadcast, Fr. Reynolds had been removed from his home and from his parish ministry
The report also found that secret filming of the priest transgressed ethical journalism bounds, that the credibility of key sources against Father Reynolds were not questioned enough and that a “group think” phenomenon and an assumption of guilt took over.
The inquiry found that it appeared second-hand repetition of gossip was treated as fact.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Fr Kevin Reynolds for the hurt caused to him," Kavanagh stated.
RTE admitted "serious editorial errors" and the Director General Noel Curran stated the report did "not make easy reading. We are not proud of the picture presented in the findings."