RTE Drop “Prime Time Investigates”

Nobody can deny that there has been a lot of scandals……..political, financial, Church over the past two decades. Nor can anyone deny that there is an ongoing “drugs war” among the criminal classes. RTE deserves a lot of credit for exposing many scandals thru programmes like “Prime Time Investigates”.

But much of the good work has been undone by the fact that this programme subtitled “Mission To Prey”  seriously libelled a Catholic priest, Father Kevin Reynolds, accusing him of raping a Kenyan teenager and fathering a child. It is hard to imagine a more serious allegation. Father Reynolds had volunteered to take a DNA test before the programme was broadcast. RTE refused the offer. Subsequent DNA tests showed that Father Reynolds is entirely innocent. He was awarded a substantial out of court settlement against RTE.

Many apologists for RTE and Journalism will thin that the matter should have ended there. In fact, Father Reynolds had been suspended from his parish and had to live elsewhere before proving his own innocence. Not so Aoife Kavanagh, the journalist who defamed Father Reynolds. It took a campaign to have Ms Kavanagh put on suspension by RTE. She is still on suspension.

In the wake of an inquiry into the incident RTE has now axed “Prime Time Investigates”. Apologists for Journalism are angered that this is an over-reaction. But the programme itself has exposed wrong doing in high places………including the Catholic Church. People have been held to account. Surely it is only right that the programme-makers including Ms Kavanagh are held to account.

Let this be clearly understood….this is not an attack on Press Freedom. It is an attack on the abuse of power by RTE journalists. Donnybrook 2012 is Wapping 2011. Rupert Murdoch had no hesitation in closing down his title “News of the World” when the brand became toxic. RTE should have no hesitation in closing down one of its titles……..when it loses public confidence and becomes toxic.

It will of course be described (by journalists) as pandering to a lynch mob and a witch hunt. It is nothing of the kind. And before journalists cry crocodile tears, they should realise that within months of being closed down, “News of the World” was re-branded and re-launched. As will “Prime Time Investigates”.

Journalists who dismissed the English phone hacking scandal as a “one off” on which they happily commented have been forced into shamed silence by the revelations in the Leveson Inquiry. This is how Journalism works…….a double standard.

RTE has been accused of having an anti-Catholic agenda? And certainly the “Mission To Prey” programme gives credence to this. But it should be noted that many of RTEs leading journalists, including Seán O’Rourke publicly criticised their employer for the intial seeming grudging apology issued to Father Reynolds and the lapse in RTE standards.

But there is an interesting little statistic from the Irish Census (2011). Apparently 84% of the population of the Republic of Ireland are “Catholic”…despite the scandals of the past two decades. A heartening figure for Catholics and one which contradicts the narrative in most media and blogger circles………..so it will not be mentioned. Some blog sites have a preference for “life and times surveys” in the Belfast Telegraph. Faced with a life and times survey and hard facts like an election ora census…………a blog site with an agenda will always prefer the Belfast Telegraph.

Nobody would ever want a situation to arise where jobs in RTE were allocated to reflect the proportions in the population. But the Census shows that 84% of the Republic’s population are Catholic. What exactly would a census at RTE show? That non-Catholics are perhaps “over-represented” at Donnybrook?

Last week, I posted about Kate Adie’s observation that she could not understand the Troubles until she was on assignment in the BBC Belfast Newsroom…..and noted how few Catholics there were.

Have things changed? The Media and the Blogosphere still seem to be living in a world which has not recognised the dominace of DUP and Sinn Féin. A bland “lets get alongerist” agenda and narrative prevails.

Take last years Assembly Election where 57% of the votes went to DUP and Sinn Féin……..would an exit poll at Ormeau Avenue or Havelock House reflect this?



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9 Responses to RTE Drop “Prime Time Investigates”

  1. itwassammymcnallywhatdoneit says:

    Haven’t folowed this story closely but not sure just dropping a program and suspending a journalist is an apporpriate response given what has occurred. It woud seem extraordinary that producers/researchers (other than 1 journalist) would not as a matter of course discuss checkng and verifying the facts and particulalrly in this high profile case when the person being investigated is offering crucial information (DNA Test).

    On a more trrivial note, I’m a fan of RTE but it get things badly wrong – a few monhs back I counted 3 separate factual errors in a sports report and errors and continuity feckups are quite common and often those doing the sports reports seem to have little knowledge of the subject matter. I only realise how professional the BBC is (it all seems simple to me) when I see others, like RTE, getting it wrong.

    Not that te BBC is (editorially) perfect …. but the blandification of the BBC is a different story.

    • Mick Fealty says:

      Sorry Sammy, that last comment was aimed at ‘The Horse’ not your good self!

      • itwassammymcnallywhatdoneit says:


        re. “the usual generalised, luddite twaddle”

        thats a bit severe – on other sites that might attract the attentions of the moderator.

  2. Mick Fealty says:

    There’s a serious point buried in there somewhere amid the usual generalised, luddite twaddle, I think.

    Journalists ought to recognise the legitimacy of the democratic systems, and its results. Ironically, PrimeTime has a good record on this score. But now it is gone; with no real sense of why, or what is likely to take its place.

    That’s the real issue here.

    When they ditched the traditional slippers-by-the-fire Q&A format for the confrontational, ‘I’m-with-the-rebels’, FrontLine format it sided with the mob and made a feature of a dangerous presumption of being against incumbent/government/status quo.

    When it comes to ‘most Catholics’, in my experience, they are pretty angry (nay, quietly seething) about what’s been sanctioned by the church.

    The problem arises when that anger impairs journalistic judgement. As noted at the time here on Slugger (http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/10/27/aras11-how-the-press-got-it-wrong-on-gallagher-and-failed-to-admit-it/), RTE were bowled over by the intensity of their own moral outrage.

    If they don’t find a way of balancing the aristocratic demands of government with the democratic mission to keep them under scrutiny they/we are in trouble. I don’t say it’s going to be easy, but it must be done.

    • I totally agree with you that most Catholics are extremely angry about what is going on.
      But your reply while containing a serious point contains the usual special pleading for journalists.
      Ironic almost that you mention the “mob” when it was actually Father Reynolds who was denied any due process at all. Journalists led that particular mob. But I think it is a safe bet that a re-branded “Prime Time Investigates” will be on air before long.
      Alas, the Irish Government, for all its flaws and “life and times” second guessing by the Overclass is actually democratic.
      It is the Journalists who are the unaccountable aristocrats…….”peerless” perhaps.

      • Mick Fealty says:

        I’ve rather cleanly put the onus on journalism to sort itself out. What special pleading do you mean, exactly?

      • Maybe the point is that Journalism cannot be trusted to sort itself out…….can solicitors, doctors, police, politicians, accountants, bishops, be so trusted?
        The Prime Time team defamed a man…..big money has been paid to him (from Irish licence fees).
        There has to be a sanction on the people who caused the offence.

  3. Mick Fealty says:

    On another point, you’re just repeating what I said about the mob as though I’d said the opposite. Citing the ‘mob’ in the Reynolds case is stating the ‘bleedin’ obvious’. My point about FL demonstrates the less obvious point that the decision to go ‘oppositional’ is a more general editorial tick.

  4. Mick Fealty says:

    Maybe it is… What are you actually suggesting? Statutory regulation? That’s already the case with all broadcasters north and south.

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