Defamation

Priest Settles Libel Claim against RTÉ for Undisclosed Amount


 

A libel claim against RTÉ, made by a priest wrongly accused of having sex with a minor and fathering a child, has been settled for an undisclosed amount.

Father Kevin Reynolds – the parish priest of Ahascragh in County Galway – made the libel claim against RTÉ following a “Prime Time Investigates” broadcast on May 23rd in which he was accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982, fathering a child by the girl and then abandoning the child.

Despite Father Reynolds denying the allegations, supporting his denial with an email from his former bishop in Kenya and offering to take a paternity test, the programme was broadcast to an estimated audience of 519,000 viewers. The allegations were treated as fact on the following morning’s “Morning Ireland” and broadcast worldwide on the Internet.

With support from the Association of Catholic Priests, the libel claim against RTÉ was scheduled to be heard in the High Court. But, before the hearing could commence, it was announced that the libel claim against RTÉ had been settled for an undisclosed amount which included both compensation for libel and aggravated damages for RTÉ failing to review its position and remove any reference to Father Reynolds from the programme when there was reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the accusations.

Speaking in court, Jack Fitzgerald SC – counsel for Father Reynolds – said that RTÉ and reporter Aoife Kavanagh had choices prior to the broadcast, and the ones they made was “utterly misjudged and wrong” and had an “utterly devastating impact” on Father Reynolds´ life. The court heard that Father Reynolds had suffered “irreparable damage” to his reputation, his life was utterly altered, and he was removed from his home and his community.

Mr Fitzgerald then read out the terms under which Father Reynolds had agreed to settle his libel claim against RTÉ. In addition to the undisclosed settlement of compensation, RTÉ will be required to publish a correction order under Section 30 of the Defamation Act 2009. The correction will be broadcast on RTÉ’s Prime Time and Morning Ireland programmes and published in the Connaught Tribune, The Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.