Defamation

Former Archbishop Settles Defamation Case against RTÉ


 

A former Archbishop of Benin has settled his defamation case against RTÉ, whose Prime Time documentary “Mission to Prey” had alleged he was a paedophile.

In May 2011, RTÉ broadcast a Prime Time documentary “Mission to Prey”, in which it was alleged that Richard Burke (66) – a member of the Kiltegan Fathers and a former Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria – had an improper relationship with a Dolores Atwood when she was aged 14 in the 1980s.

As a result of the broadcast, Mr Burke brought a defamation case against RTÉ, claiming that the material used in the documentary branded him as a paedophile. He denied the claims that he had an improper relationship with Ms Atwood while she was a teenager, although he admitted having consensual sex with her when she was 20 years of age.

At the hearing to determine the defamation case against RTÉ, Mr Burke told the court he did not know he was going to be featured in the documentary until it was broadcast and he had been given no opportunity to respond to the allegations – despite Prime Time investigators stating that he had declined to be interviewed for the program.

The court heard that RTÉ denied the claims of defamation, and that Ms Attwood stood by her allegations. Representatives from Prime Time acknowledged that their statement suggesting that Mr Burke declined to be interviewed was incorrect and apologised to the cleric. The hearing was closed without a verdict being reached, as an agreement was reached between the two parties.

Outside the court, RTÉ´s Managing Director of News and Current Affairs – Kevin Bakhurst – told reporter that RTÉ had not paid any compensation to Mr Burke, but was contributing to his costs of bring the defamation case against RTÉ. Mr Burke´s solicitor said that the matter had been resolved to his client´s satisfaction.