Mission to Prey

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Mission to Prey
Genre "Undercover journalism"
Created by RTÉ News
Starring Aoife Kavanagh
Country of origin Ireland
Original channel RTÉ One
Original airing 23 May 2011
Related shows Prime Time
The Frontline
External links

"Mission to Prey" is the title of an episode of the RTÉ programme Prime Time Investigates broadcast in May 2011. It was presented by RTÉ's Aoife Kavanagh.

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.[1][2][3] 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.[4]


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.[3][5] 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.[6] 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.[2]

Justice Minister Alan Shatter initially supported "Mission to Prey" after it was broadcast in May 2011, and released a public statement of praise after it was aired.[7]

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.[8][9] 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".[10][11]

RTÉ apology controversy[edit]

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.[12][13][14]

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".[6]

RTÉ staff, including Mike Murphy, John Bowman and Sean O'Rourke, publicly criticised the serious libel.[15]

BAI report[edit]

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.[16][17] 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".[18] Aoife Kavanagh resigned from RTÉ on 4 May 2012.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aoife Kavanagh: Journalist who made the headlines". Irish Independent. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Reporter's broadcasts in wake of libel finding 'unfair'". The Irish Times. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Taoiseach cites 'grievous drop' in RTÉ standards over Fr Reynolds libel case". BBC News. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Cullen, Paul; McGreevy, Ronan (23 November 2011). "RTÉ shelves investigative series and concedes 'grave mistake'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Irish TV Network Defames Innocent Priest, Issues Apology, The Media Report, November 2011, accessed 23 November 2011.
  6. ^ a b Hilliard, Mark (26 November 2011). "Miriam's husband takes reins of current affairs". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Brennan, Michael (26 November 2011). "Shatter in U-turn on his 'rash' support for Prime Time". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Family wants RTÉ to prove abuse allegation". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  9. ^ O'Sullivan, Majella; Kelpie, Colm (26 November 2011). "RTÉ told: produce evidence of abuse. Family insists Brother not behind offence". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "RTÉ must justify its allegations". Irish Independent. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  11. ^ O'Connor, Alison (26 November 2011). "Heads must roll, but RTÉ shouldn't be emasculated". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "'Mission to Prey' -- the baseless accusation that set off a bomb". Irish Independent. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Apology - Fr Kevin Reynolds". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "(Audio) Morning Ireland: RTÉ apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  15. ^ Gittens, Geraldine (24 November 2011). "RTÉ stars slam 'shameful' libel as chiefs step aside". Evening Herald. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  16. ^ "BAI finds 'significant failure of editorial and managerial controls' at RTÉ". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  17. ^ "Report criticises RTÉ journalism standards". BBC News (BBC). 4 May 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  18. ^ "Sweeping assumptions raise concerns". The Irish Times. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  19. ^ "Mission to Prey reporter Aoife Kavanagh resigns from RTÉ". The Journal. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.