Resignations Filed at Damaged Irish TV Network That Defamed Catholic Priest

Falsely Accused Priest Rev. Kevin Reynolds

Nearly a year after Irish television network RTÉ defamed an innocent Catholic priest, employees connected to the incident have resigned.

The resignations are on the heels of a major television scandal that erupted in Ireland last May.

An RTÉ program called "Mission to Prey," (part of the series Prime Time Investigates) falsely claimed that an Irish priest, Rev. Kevin Reynolds, had raped and impregnated a teenage girl decades earlier in Africa. It also reported that the priest had abandoned a daughter he fathered.

After the story was exposed as a complete fabrication, the network admitted that the show "ought never to have been broadcast" and its claims were "baseless, without any foundation whatever and untrue."

RTÉ has been reeling ever since.

A network takes a big tumble

Riding the wave of worldwide reports of sex abuse by priests in the Catholic Church, last May's "Mission to Prey" program sought to profile pedophile priests in Ireland. In doing so, it chronicled the claim that Rev. Reynolds had committed abominable crimes.

Even before the program aired, Fr. Kevin vehemently denied the the charges against him. Not only did he assert that he had never even known anyone by the accuser's name, but he also offered to take a paternity test.

But RTÉ was anxious to air the show and attack the Church. Even against the advice of the network's own legal counsel, RTÉ broadcasted the program anyway.

As a result of the allegations, Fr. Reynolds was forced to leave his parish ministry and home. Yet two conclusive paternity tests later proved that there was no way that the priest could be the father of the accuser's daughter.

Last November, the network agreed to pay "more than €1 million, including costs" to Fr. Kevin for the libel it had committed.

Nearly a year after the defamatory program, the network is still suffering from credibility and financial issues. RTÉ has announced it is closing its London bureau and is facing a deficit of €20 million. The network has also permanently cancelled the Prime Time Investigates series.

A damaging report is delivered

Media outlets are now reporting that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has completed and handed over an independent report about its investigation into how RTÉ's libel of Fr. Kevin unfolded.

The Irish Times reports:

"[The] investigation would likely have covered the source of the original false allegation, legal proceedings that followed the broadcast of the programme and the reason why RTÉ decided to go ahead with the broadcast when Fr. Reynolds had offered to take a paternity test."

The network faces a fine up to €250,000, and it has 14 days to formally respond to the report.

Meanwhile, RTÉ has announced, "There will be a full restructuring of television current affairs management and structures."