Archive for October, 2011

"I pretended to be a former BIG terrorist's campaign team and told a BIG whopper on a BIG anti-social networking site and then a BIG television station in a LITTLE country got the BIG whopper with the former BIG terrorist's name on it and put it in front of this BIG man who was winning this BIG race and this BIG man tripped over this BIG whopper and fell on... (is it ok to say 'Aras'?) and this little man jumped over the BIG man and won the BIG race but everyone was happy,.. I THINK:..the little man who won the BIG race, and all the little people in the BIG TV station and the former BIG terrorist and the BIG man... Well.. ...maybe the BIG man wasn't THAT happy, really!...Is that a sin and do you have to tell people what I did so the BIG station doesn't get upset, even though they may kinda know anyway?"

Did an error by RTÉ Frontline, on Monday, change the outcome of Thursday’s  presidential election? That’s the question that no one seems willing to ask publicly and directly.

In his Irish Times blog, yesterday, Harry McGee outlined “a number of problems” about the false tweet that “appeared”, on the Frontline, on Monday night. ‘The Tweet that was heard all round the world’ came from a fake account and was retweeted by several duped tweeters who inadvertently authenticated the fake.

Fine! All of this highlights some serious problems about the way Twitter works. But, that’s where the lie should have stayed. The RTÉ Frontline team, however made a serious mistake — one which in my view changed the outcome of Thursday’s presidential election — when they allowed Pat Kenny to confront Seán Gallagher with the tweet  live on air on Monday night and present it as if it were fact.

In his blog, McGee accurately described the decision to “read (the tweet) out live on air” as “a most serious implication, and worrying development”. Said McGee, “I have been on to RTE about this and they didn’t come back with any official, or satisfactory, response. It seems that the broadcaster has no protocol for handling tweets. But it’s my contention that they should. And it would be dangerous for the broadcaster to allow an incident like this to be repeated.”

“Dangerous”? For Seán Gallagher, it has already been fatal, although one could see how RTÉ and other ‘elements of the media’ might not view the election of President Michael D Higgins at the expense of Seán Gallagher as a negative outcome to Monday’s events.

Martin McGuinness could have pointed out that the tweet wasn’t authentic, of course. But by presenting it as fact and addressing it to Seán Gallagher, RTÉ were relying very heavily on Martin McGuinness to set the record straight. He didn’t! This was not Martin McGuiness’s job, however. This was RTÉ’s. Seán Gallagher’s fate was effectively put in the hands of someone whose credibility, RTÉ have themselves frequently questioned.

And remember, as McGee pointed out, “the (disastrous) ‘envelope’ reference was forced on the back of the false tweet”.

This has been a torrid few weeks for RTÉ current affairs with the most recent of the current ‘current’ problems following hot on the heels of the station’s apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds in the wake of last May’s Mission to Prey by the Prime Time Investigates team.

Miriam O’Callaghan did no favours to RTÉ’s credibility, yesterday, either, when she announced on Newstalk’s The Right Hook that she votes only on the basis of gender. RTÉ ‘must do better’ if it is to get anywhere close to regaining the ‘trust of the people’


Irish Times’ Editor, Kevin O’Sullivan, was the special guest on Newstalk’s Breakfast, yesterday morning, when Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue subjected Geraldine Kennedy’s successor to an apparently tough interview.

The new editor, in the job just four months, was forced to field quick-fire questions on issues varying from declining sales, to the website pay wall;  from the broadsheet format, to the Paper’s “property porn” features in the ‘bubble-boom’ years.

O’Sullivan was even pressed on fomer Times’ MD, Maeve Donovan’s severance package and, more importantly, on the Times’ apparent support for Michael D Higgins as President: Was the Irish Times becoming more of a “views paper” than a “news paper”? Was the Irish Times ‘Trust‘ betraying the trust of its readers.

All good! However, no one asked Kevin O’Sullivan the really big questions. This is not suprising. There is a tendency in the Irish media, in particular, not to go really deep, a tendency to make a big fuss of, admittedly, important questions but to ignore the most impotant ones of all.

The good is often the enemy of the best, and journalism — another fisherman-like occupation where one must ‘put out into the deep‘ to get a catch (of truth) —  is no exception to this rule.

You see, no one asked Kevin O’Sullivan the following…

“Why did you put RTÉ’s apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds into a tiny column on the bottom of Page 7, the same day that you placed a story about the family of Dana (who was running at 4% in the polls) at the top of the front page?”


“How do you respond to Dr Helen Buckley’s allegation, against the media in general, of disproportionate reporting with respect to Child abuse?”

And what about?…

“Three per cent of abuse (clerical) got 80% of coverage in approximately 10 years — What about the 97%?!”

As the ‘paper of record’ the Irish Times has a special responsibility. Disproportionate reporting of abuse, not only, does a disservice to the Catholic Church and its vast majority of exceptionally dedicated priests and faithful laity — some of whom now, apparently, have been “made to feel like criminals in their own county”.

The disproportionate reporting of abuse is, also, grossly unfair to the 97% of abuse victims who were not in the tiny minority of victims abused by a similarly tiny minority of priests and religious.

Dr Mark O’Brien, author of The Irish Times: A History (2008), refers to “the institution that is the Irish Times”. By ignoring some sources of abuse while emphasising others (presumably in order to pursue a particular agenda?), the Irish Times appears to be guilty of its own form of ‘institutional neglect‘. Why is some suffering newsworthy while the rest is not worth the paper it’s not printed on.

It is time for the Irish Times to reflect more accurately the abuse that is still going on in this country.   It is time for the ‘paper of  record’ to not merely be a paper of some records while leaving others largely unwritten. It is time, ultimately, for the ‘Trust’ to restore the trust of its neglected Irish Catholic readership.

A similar bias to that displayed by the Human Rights Committee, with respect to religion and education, (see David Quinn, Irish Independent – Oct 7) is, also, more than apparent in the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

In fact, at its launch, last May, of  ‘Religion and Education: A Human Rights Perspective‘, the IHRC used this month’s then upcoming UN review of our human rights record, to pile pressure on the Government to “change” if it hoped to “escape a rebuke” by the UN! (see Irish Independent, May 25) Perish the thought! Of course!

One of the areas needing change, we were told, then, (and the Commission discussed this at some length) was  “inadvertent indoctrination or proselytism” by Catholic schools of (even) Catholic children!

But, when the following very real concerns were raised by one woman, from the floor

  1. the ridicule of religious beliefs at Third Level and
  2. State indoctrination in the form of sex education at Second Level,

there was a discernible shudder of horror and disbelief in the hall: ‘how could someone dare to make such a preposterous ‘off message’ intervention!? Indeed, who let her in ??’

It was hard not to be left with the impression that the vast majority of the attendees at Wood Quay, that day, viewed the Commission as some sort of private club to be used solely as a means of advancing an esoteric anti-religious ideology.


Senator:”What is the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources going to do about it?"

Senator: "Has the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, been in contact with RTE regarding the editorial procedures followed by those who make programmes such as ‘Prime Time’?"

“Senators called for an urgent debte into the role of the media in Ireland” RTE Oireachtas Report (18 mins into video)

Here are some quotes taken diectly from the Seanad record of Tuesday 11th October, 2011.

“Has the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, been in contact with RTE regarding the editorial procedures followed by those who make programmes such as ‘Prime Time’?…will the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, if he has not done so already, seek an urgent meeting with the director general of RTE to discover the nature and extent of the editorial procedures that apply in cases such as this?…What is the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources going to do about it? Has he made contact with RTE…What are the investigatory or procedural measures RTE and other broadcasters have in place to ensure people%u2019s good names will be protected?” – Senator Darragh O’Brien – Tue 11 Oct 2011

“Senators called for an urgent debte into the role of the media in Ireland” RTE Oireachtas Report (18 mins into video)

Although RTÉ’s “apology is in the public domain (…) the subject matter will be before the High Court”.   Comments have, therefore, been temporarily disabled for this posting. Shhhhhh!

However, RTÉ’s Oireachtas Report is very much worth listening to and the full Seanad transcript is very much woth reading!

“Apology – Fr Kevin Reynolds

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.

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.” – RTÉ website posted on Thursday 6th October  2011 (Eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)


In May of this year,


“Good that more terrible abuse has been brought, in a certain sense, into the light, particularly in the ‘forgotten continent’. Strange, however, that the absence of any criminal conviction and the assertion of innocence should be presented as proof of guilt. Not sure also about the producers’ confidence in Africa’s criminal justice systems — was under the impression that concerns had been raised, in particular about Uganda’s proposed execution of those accused of homosexual rape. A recent documentary on South African prisons also showed the horrific lawlessness that obtains there…Will be following with interest the results of that paternity test. Hope I’ll be able to find them easily on the RTE website, whatever the outcome...” (emphasis added)

(RTE has still not posted this comment!)

Just how shameful the behaviour of RTÉ was, in this case, can be seen from its determination to press ahead with the broadcast of the programme ‘A Mission to Prey’, in spite of the immediate protestations of innocence by Fr Kevin Reynolds,  in spite of Fr Reynolds’ volunteering to undergo a paternity test and in spite of the severe negative consequences this innocent priest was sure to suffer.

‘RTÉ’s Vision is to grow the trust of the people of Ireland as it informs, inspires, reflects and enriches their lives’ – RTÉ website

'Blind Passion'? RTÉ was determined to press ahead with the broadcast of the programme, 'A Mission to Prey' on 23rd May, despite Fr Kevin Reynolds' immediate protestations of innocence, despite the damaging consequences to the priest and in particular, despite Fr Reynolds' volunteering to undergo a paternity test at that time

'Blind Passion'? RTÉ was determined to press ahead with the broadcast of the programme, 'A Mission to Prey' on 23rd May, despite Fr Kevin Reynolds' immediate protestations of innocence, despite the damaging consequences to the priest and in particular, despite Fr Reynolds' volunteering to undergo a paternity test at that time

‘Back to basics’ seems to be the ‘theme behind the theme’ for next year’s World Communications Day Message.

The Church’s World Communications Day Message is presented in, more or less, three stages each year.  The first stage — this one — is when the theme of the Message is released.  In the second stage, the message itself is made public. This happens on the 24th January, the Feast of St Francis de Sales who is the Patron Saint of Journalists (no coincidence here!).  Then the third stage, World Communications Day itself, takes place on the Sunday before Pentecost.  Next year, World Communications Day will be the 20th May.

Anyone who has been keeping an eye on the themes for World Communications Day — over the last 20 years or so in particular — will have seen a shift in emphasis from TV and Radio through to even more ‘modern means of communication.

The most recent Messages, for example, have dealt with Social Networking and the Facebook phenomenon (2011), and called on the young, in particular — but also priests (2010) — to evangelize what the Pope has dubbed the ‘Digital Continent’ (2009).

Interestingly, in parallel with this increasing emphasis on technological complexity in communications, as typified by social networking, there has also been an increasingly loud call to return to the Source of all Divine Communication, namely God Himself. In 2012, it would appear that this call has become so ‘loud’ as to arrive at silence! The theme for 2012 is Silence and Word: path of evangelisation.

In the heady days of Inter Mirifica and Vatican II, by contrast, the ‘down side’ of the ‘modern means of communications’ did not seem to be fully anticipated and the dangers of getting lost in ‘the cares of this life’ (Mark 4:19) and being ‘conformed to this world’ (Romans 12:2), perhaps, were not given the attention they deserved.

But last year’s call to ‘put on our best (and truest) face’ for Facebook, not allowing our true identities to be mangled and stretched by the workings of the ‘interweb’ is a reminder that the internet is, no less than other contexts, a part of the theatre of salvation, in which the Christian communicator must play out his or her passion, in order to enter into Glory.

It is appropriate, perhaps, then that this year’s Message should be about the role of silence in Communication. It is pre-eminently through silent prayer that the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of Christ “fully reveals man to man himself” (Gaudium et Spes – Vatican II) .

‘Listen to God and allow others to hear Him, in silence’. How thought-provoking, challenging and truly counter-cultural is the Church’s understanding of 21st Century world communications!


The Pophet Elijah
The Prophet Elijah who heard the ‘still small voice’ of God