On the evening of the 23rd May 2011, RTÉ broadcast a Prime Time Investigates programme entitled “A Mission to Prey”.
Before this broadcast Prime Time conducted an interview with Fr. Kevin Reynolds, the then parish priest at Ahascragh in Galway.
This interview took place beside the parochial house after the annual First Holy Communion Mass.
The cases of abuse that have occurred in our Church, that have brought shame on us all, have been dealt with by the Holy Father, and allegations are intensely investigated in the light of past experience.
But not all allegations have any foundation in fact, and Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has written about this in his blog on the Catholic Herald site. He comments that this is not the first time that the media in the Republic have – quite simply – got it wrong:
“In fact the Irish media have form on this matter. Some may have heard of the case of Nora Wall, a former nun sentenced to life imprisonment for rape. Yet the real scandal of the Nora Wall case concerns the way a totally innocent woman was the subject of a hysterical witch-hunt. Miss Wall’s conviction was quashed, and she has been found to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice. You can read a summary of the case here. While the charges against Miss Wall aroused huge ire, the fact that an innocent woman was pilloried has not aroused similar passion. But a passion for justice ought to cut both ways.”
During this interview allegations were made against Fr. Reynolds. He immediately protested his innocence and denied all the allegations.
Between the interview and the broadcast, Fr. Kevin Reynolds, through his Solicitors, repeated his protestations of innocence, asked RTÉ not to broadcast the interview and volunteered to
undergo a paternity test.
Prime Time duly broadcast the programme accusing Fr. Reynolds of raping a minor named Veneranda while he was a missionary in Kenya and fathering a child named Sheila as a result of this rape.
He was also accused of secretly providing funds to Sheila.
Both Veneranda and Sheila were interviewed in the programme to corroborate the allegations.
As a result Fr. Kevin Reynolds was obliged to stand down from ministry and was removed as the parish priest of Ahascragh. He had to leave his home and his parish.
He was compelled by the actions of RTÉ to institute High Court defamation proceedings to vindicate his good name and reputation.
RTÉ acknowledges that the material in the programme concerning Fr. Reynolds ought never to have been broadcast.
RTÉ now fully and unreservedly accepts that the allegations made by Prime Time against Fr. Kevin Reynolds are baseless, without any foundation whatever and untrue and that Fr. Reynolds is a priest of the utmost integrity who has had an unblemished 40 year career in the priesthood and who has made a valuable contribution to society in Kenya and Ireland both in education and in ministry.
RTÉ acknowledges the defamation has had a devastating effect on Fr. Kevin Reynolds, his family, his peers, his parishioners in Ahascragh, those in the diocese of Kakamega in Kenya who were aware of the allegations and all those who know him or of him.
RTÉ fully and unreservedly apologises to Fr. Kevin Reynolds for this defamation and deeply regrets the serious consequences suffered by him. He was entirely innocent of the allegations broadcast about him.
Update 21:00 (Greenwich time)
An action for defamation against RTÉ by Galway priest Fr Kevin Reynolds is to begin in the High Court on 15 November.
RTÉ apologised to Fr Reynolds last week for defaming him in a Prime Time Investigates programme on 23 May by accusing him of raping a woman and fathering her child while working as a missionary in Kenya.
In its apology, RTÉ said he was entirely innocent of the allegations.
Fr Reynolds had been forced to step aside as parish priest of Ahascragh in Co Galway but was reinstated last Sunday.
He is proceeding with his action against RTÉ, which will begin next month.