Nuj Chief Says Bai Report Unfair to Kavanagh

By Marie O'Halloran
Irish Times
May 7, 2012

UNION REACTION: THE Broadcasting Authority of Ireland report into RTÉ's Mission to Prey programme gave the impression that reporter Aoife Kavanagh had a "degree of executive responsibility that she did not have", according to National Union of Journalists Irish secretary Séamus Dooley.

"You could get the impression from the report that Aoife Kavanagh was going on some kind of solo run in the legal aspects of the programme, and nothing could be further from the truth," said Mr Dooley, who is the union representative for Ms Kavanagh and former current affairs editor Ken O'Shea.

The Prime Time Investigates documentary libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds, claiming he had sexually abused a young girl and fathered her child while a missionary in Kenya. The BAI report was highly critical of journalistic standards involved in the broadcast and found a significant failure of editorial and managerial control within RTÉ.

"Our concern is in relation to post-transmission events," Mr Dooley said. He said one of the issues involved a letter in reply to Fr Reynolds's solicitors Fair & Murtagh that was signed by the reporter.

"It was not Ms Kavanagh's decision to sign that letter," Mr Dooley said. "The letter Ms Kavanagh signed was drafted in conjunction with the legal department, the editor of current affairs and the executive producer of Prime Time Investigates."

He stressed that Ms Kavanagh "fulfilled her duty by passing on the letter to her superiors". She "was not the point of contact between the team and the legal department" of RTÉ.

"It was not her responsibility to liaise with them. All items of legal correspondence received by her were forwarded to the relevant individuals."

He also said it would have been "very useful" if the report's investigating officer had interviewed a representative of RTÉ's legal department.

"It would have been possible to respect legal privilege while at the same time interviewing the representative about the processes and the sequence of events," he said.

Mr Dooley said "the report gave the impression that Aoife Kavanagh had a degree of executive responsibility that she did not have".

He believed the report was incomplete and appeared to have focused mainly on one member of the team. "In looking at any team it is a team effort, and the team includes the legal department that plays a crucial role."

He said that, while it was "very good in many respects, anyone reading the report would not have been very clear about the chain of command". He added that no request had been made to interview freelance journalist Michael Njenga or to secure his notes and work on the programme.

It was very important to have due process, he said. "Our concern is not to downplay the gravity of the mistakes made," but in terms of the the degree of mistakes, the submissions by the programme-makers to the investigating officer "should have been given greater weight".

Ms Kavanagh announced her resignation from RTÉ on Friday.


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