RTÉ’s apology raises questions

Excellent letter by Fr Pádraig McCarthy in today’s Irish Times  — a newspaper which gave prominent coverage to the Prime Time documentary but has been irritatingly mute about RTÉ’s recent apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds. Patsy McGarry, that newspaper’s religious affairs correspondent, has not published anything about the apology at all — despite this being an explosive news item, and despite having authored that aforelinked report about the documentary following its broadcast (but he can still find time for the comparatively trivial “Pioneers thank public for group’s survival“.)

A chara, – On October 6th and 7th October, RTÉ broadcast on television and radio an apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds for allegations made in its Prime Time Investigates programme of May 23rd of this year entitled A Mission to Prey . The apology, as given on its website, is 352 words. This is the longest apology from any media organisation that I can remember, and yet still unequal to the original broadcast.

Coming less than five months after the programme, the apology seems unusually swift, following assistance of a legal team through the Association of Catholic Priests. If Fr Kevin Reynolds did not have that assistance, would he have been left at the mercy of the might of a large corporate body and its legal team, with little hope of redress, or only after a lapse of years?

Abuse can never be undone. There is a saying about false reports that the bell cannot be unrung. I have no knowledge of the other cases covered by the programme. Any abuse of another, whether child or adult, is seriously sinful, to use an old-fashioned word. There are, however, answers still to be sought about this case at least.

Why did RTÉ refuse to pay heed before the broadcast? What legal advice was it following? What repercussions will there be in RTÉ as a corporate body, and what repercussions will there be for the individuals who made the decisions? Will it be taxpayers’ money, through the RTÉ licence fee, which will pay for the legal costs and for any compensation awarded? Would RTÉ be prepared to invite Fr Kevin Reynolds, if he were willing, or a representative of his, to come on Prime Time to discuss what has been done, and how it has affected his life? Was there any stonewalling on the part of RTÉ before it “now fully and unreservedly accept that the allegations made by Prime Time against Fr Kevin Reynolds are baseless, without any foundation whatever and untrue”? A statement from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said: “I share the widespread public concern and disgust at the revelations which the programme contained.” Why did the Minister, with many years experience of practice in law, speak of “revelations” rather than “allegations”?

Executive director Maeve Lewis of One in Four said its content was “sickeningly recognisable and told the same story that we are so familiar with in Ireland: vulnerable children being targeted and abused by priests and brothers while the Catholic authorities deny the abuse and protect the sex offenders”, as reported in The Irish Times on May 25th. There have indeed been deplorable failures on the part of church authorities (I wonder about other authorities too); but is any and every defence to be dismissed and condemned?

Prime Time, like the Murphy reports on Dublin and Cloyne, can do very good work, but it has its limitations and is not immune from error. As with abuse, its actions and statements have serious and long-lasting consequences. Perhaps the apology from RTÉ, while still seriously inadequate, will set a new standard for Irish media. – Is mise,


Blackthorn Court,

Sandyford, Dublin 16.


Posted on October 11, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “Perhaps the apology from RTÉ, while still seriously inadequate, will set a new standard for Irish media.”

    Not holding your breath, I expect, Father! The soi-disant paper of record seems to balk at actually correcting the record when that doesn’t chime in with the agenda.

    Excellent letter anyway. I was away and so didn’t see it. Most things written by Mr. McGarry tend to drive me into seriously uncharitable territory. The relentless tone of indignant crusading… the man is an activist, not a journalist. He brings to mind what one noted Tory wit (probably Alan Clark) said of some zealous 1980s Minister (now forgotten): “he has all the blue-eyed sincerity of Paddington Bear”.

    It was the pioneering editorship in the 60s and 70s of protestant liberals like Douglas Gageby that brought that paper out of its minority conservative niche to embrace the mainstream culture and adopt liberal positions. However I do seem to recall that John Cooney was its religious affairs correspondent at that time – the original Spirit of V2 man – so maybe Mr. McG is merely following in that tradition. Whatever… I’ve largely given up reading it anyway. As for the competition – oh please!!

  2. Indeed, jaykay. I utterly despise the media in this country without exception. The Irish Times is horrible, but the Irish Independent these days is even worse! A pity we don’t have a decent newspaper. That’s why I think the internet is important.

  3. Now that I recall: the quote was “blue-eyed certainty of Paddington bear”. Sums up the zealot mentality nicely.

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