Mission to Prey
|Mission to Prey|
|Created by||RTÉ News|
|Country of origin||Ireland|
|Original channel||RTÉ One|
|Original airing||23 May 2011|
|Related shows||Prime Time
The programme contained allegations which defamed Fr. Kevin Reynolds, an Irish Catholic priest, and caused uproar across Ireland when the truth was later revealed. Kavanagh falsely accused Fr. Kevin Reynolds of raping a teenage girl and fathering her child in Kenya. As a result of the broadcast, Fr. Reynolds was removed from his home and from his parish ministry and his reputation was destroyed. It subsequently emerged that the allegations were baseless and that RTÉ had therefore defamed Fr. Kevin Reynolds. Director-General of RTÉ Noel Curran admitted the broadcasting of "Mission to Prey" was "one of the gravest editorial mistakes ever made" in RTÉ's history.
Prime Times Investigates was initially suspended as a result of the scandal and it was later announced that the program would be terminated and replaced with a different investigative program. The fact that such damaging material could be aired on the national television network without adequate prior fact-checking caused a political scandal in Ireland, and the Irish government ordered a government inquiry into the matter. RTÉ's managing director of news Ed Mulhall and current affairs editor Ken O'Shea were replaced by Cillian de Paor and Steve Carson respectively. Aoife Kavanagh was eventually taken off the air. The head of the Irish Missionary Union had said Kavanagh's continuing presence on Morning Ireland after being found guilty of defaming Fr. Kevin Reynolds was "unfair and unjust" and a demonstration of "double standards" in the media.
As a result of RTÉ's defamation of Fr. Kevin Reynolds, the family of a deceased Christian Brother, accused by RTÉ in the same Mission to Prey programme of having abused children, asked that his name also be cleared. There were calls for RTÉ to justify all allegations it had made against missionaries and there was a "danger that the national broadcaster could be damaged far beyond what is necessary".
RTÉ apology controversy
RTÉ refused to accept DNA evidence that Fr Reynolds was innocent and he was forced to take action. After the High Court found that the accusations were baseless and defamatory RTÉ were forced into apologizing to Fr Reynolds and paying substantial damages.
There was a "public backlash" over the standard of the televised apology. Among the most outspoken critics of RTÉ's botched apology was Fr. Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests. RTÉ staff also expressed their ire during a showdown with Noel Curran. RTÉ rebroadcast the apology to Fr. Kevin Reynolds after the Nine O'Clock News on 25 November 2011 which it described as "in response to concerns expressed by viewers".
RTÉ was fined €200,000 by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) as a result of the defamation of Fr Kevin Reynolds following what the BAI said were serious breaches of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The BAI's report found that "Second-hand repetition of gossip appears to have been treated as corroboration, as Ms Kavanagh did not appear to have met or questioned colleagues who according to the primary source, were aware of the allegations". Aoife Kavanagh resigned from RTÉ on 4 May 2012.
- Prime Time
- False allegation of child sexual abuse
- Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland
- Roman Catholic sex abuse cases by country
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- "Sweeping assumptions raise concerns". The Irish Times. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- "Mission to Prey reporter Aoife Kavanagh resigns from RTÉ". The Journal. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.