Was The Communications Clinic Hired To Deal With Mission To Prey Before It Was Even Broadcast?

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Apparently so.

On Monday, May 16, the Irish Missionaries Union circulated its Strategic Plan 2011- 2014 to its members.

In it, the IMU said it was preparing for an RTE expose (Mission to Prey). It also said it planned to hold a workshop for members to deal with the expected fallout from the RTE show.

This was exactly a week before RTE Prime Time Investigates aired Mission to Prey, on Monday, May 23,

A day before the broadcast, on Sunday, May 22, the Sunday Business Post wrote a story about the document but added details of how Terry Prone (above), a director of The Communications Clinic – and the wife of RTE Board chairman Tom Savage (top), also a director of The Communications Clinic – was hired by the IMU in advance of the Mission to Prey broadcast.

The SBP article (behind paywall) said: “The body representing Irish Catholic missionary congregations is developing a strategy to prepare its members for an onslaught of allegations of sexual abuse. The Irish Missionary Union (IMU) is understood to have hired several public relations experts, including Terry Prone, to manage the fallout from an RTE Prime Time documentary, to be screened this week, about allegations of sexual abuse by Irish priests in Africa.”

On Monday, May 23, RTE broadcast Mission to Prey, despite offers by Fr Reynolds to take a paternity test to prove his innocence.

On September 22, 2011, the High Court heard how two paternity tests showed Fr Reynolds was not the father of the woman’s child, ultimately leading to Fr Reynold’s vindication.

On May 9, 2012, Tom Savage, told Newstalk he did not learn of the controversy surrounding the Mission To Prey programme until September 2011 – three months after Fr Reynolds started to take legal action and four months after his own PR firm was apparently employed to deal with the fall out from the show’s findings.

He said: “When we were told at our September board meeting. Because obviously if you are dealing with a huge organisation like RTE, with so much output in so many areas, the board is never informed on an ongoing basis of every single issue that crops up. And it tends to be that only when problems emerge and they’re either raised directly with the board or they’re raised through the Director General’s report that comes to us at the board meeting, the first item on the board meeting, that we have each month, we heard about it in September.”

Mr Savage also told an Oireachtas Committee meeting last week: “(The RTE board)  did not know until the evidence came that the first paternity test had shown that Fr Reynolds was not the parent. That was when we were informed. I was informed just in the lead-in to the September board meeting.”

(Laura Hutton and Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

53 thoughts on “Was The Communications Clinic Hired To Deal With Mission To Prey Before It Was Even Broadcast?

      1. Odockatee

        “Mr Savage also denies talking to Ms Prone at any stage during the 3 months to September”

        Nothing to see here folks, move on

        1. McGrath's Domestos

          At least still dissolves the mental image I formed after seeing the first two pics after each other. Well, it doesn’t actually.

  1. ffintii

    I also remember him saying “I have no conflict of interest” to the same committee.

    Cronyism among the elites

    1. Niall

      So, am I going all tin-foil hatted here, or does this all look a lot like a stitch-up aimed at garnering some much needed sympathy for the Church?

      1. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

        It’s the tinfoil, I’m afraid. There would be many, many easier ways for the Chairman of RTE to organise good PR for the church.

        1. cluster

          Perhaps, the simple fact of the matter is that someone should not have a direct influence in a PR firm and be chairman of the board of the state broadcaster simultaneously.

          Public bodies should strive to seem fair as well as to be fair.

      2. Niall

        You’re probably right, it probably is just a case of a crippling, insurmountable, conflict of interests.

        After all, who is Savage working for, exactly? The taxpayer or the Church and the rest of TCC’s client-base?

        But I did wonder at the time about the hordes of angry Catholics crawling out of the woodwork claiming that the church and the clergy are the real victims, smelled a lot like a set piece to me.

        Also found it interesting that Alan Shatter got a nice, prominent headline on legal fees in to the bargain:

        http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0517/1224316239742.html

        1. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

          They leapt on it, alright. The glee this provided for Church apologists is one of the worst things about it.

          1. Blobster

            I was more upset that a young girl was raped and an innocent man was wrongly accused of it in a way that was so inept it would be almost funny. Oh, and obviously, my licence fee being used to pay damages and legal costs for this fiasco.

          2. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

            Fair points. I didn’t mean to minimise the rape, the libel or the damage to Blobster’s wallet.

            There aren’t many bright spots in the whole thing. The longterm effects of making RTE shy of tackling the Church are hard to calculate. If this had happened while States of Fear was in production, for example, that would have been stood down forever.

  2. savage eye

    please bring down the catholic church, rte and the communications clinic.

    that’d be ace.

  3. Hector Ramirez

    for two people that set up ‘The Communications Clinic’

    There doesn’t seem to be much communications between them!

  4. Toomanyassholes

    What do people need to get them to see the light.

    Ireland is run by and for a small group of people.

    Most of us are passengers. It must end.

        1. VOTE NO Frilly Keane

          Glad to have you on the No front. Why you’re here or how you got here is of no interest.

  5. Brid

    Didn’t we have a similar problem when Terry Prone was on Vincent Brown’s programme discussing the presidential election, when all the while she was working for Gay Michell on his campaign?

  6. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

    That is a truly bad article. He can’t imagine his friend Tom Savage being dishonest, therefore everybody should look away.

    1. soundmigration

      A jaysus, Fergus Finley is gonna look like a bit of a tool now given this published today “The idea that Tom Savage would, or could, be involved in a conflict of interest between his role as chairman of the Communications Clinic and chairman of RTÉ is actually laughable”

      More laughability found here http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/fergus-finlay/rtes-future-is-safe-in-the-hands-of-honest-and-skilled-tom-savage-195559.html

      A previous go on TCC here http://soundmigration.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/why-pr-companies-like-tcc-wont-ever-own-the-interwebs/

  7. MissT

    Wait…I’m confused by the movie. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up?

    1. Kolmo

      +1. You’re thinking of “You got mail” with tom hanks amd some blonde one, I forget the name of..

      1. SDaedalus

        Certainly seems to be based on opinion rather than fact given the following quote:-

        “The idea that Tom Savage would, or could, be involved in a conflict of interest between his role as chairman of the Communications Clinic and chairman of RTÉ is actually laughable. Even if he wanted to, the very fact that his business is so out in the open would make it impossible for him to be underhand without being found out. ”

        Having just read today’s Examiner article, can’t understand how TCC’s business can be ‘so out in the open’ when even Tom Savage himself doesn’t seem to know what his company is doing… can anyone help?

        http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/savage-not-aware-of-pr-work-for-priests-195632.html

  8. Silly person

    The Comms Clinic routinely advise the various parts of the institutional Church in Ireland.

  9. soundmigration

    “The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message.”
    Pope John Paul II

    Word mofo

  10. Blobster

    We’re missing the very obvious answer to this riddle – that Savage is not capable of doing his job in either RTE or TCC. He knew nothing about the case and how either of his organisations were involved in it for months.

    To be fair though – a chairman’s role is usually quite removed from the day-to-day.

    Conspiracy or not the close RTE and TCC llinks and the fact that almost everyone in RTE is married to everyone else in RTE doesn’t do a whole lot for their credibility. Maybe RTE should get a few tag-rugby teams together…..marry their young professionals off to those not hanging around Montrose.

    1. Paul Moloney

      “Savage is not capable of doing his job”

      I don’t think someone like Savage gets to the position of influence he has today by being incompetent.

      P.

    2. Niall

      “He knew nothing about the case and how either of his organisations were involved in it for months.”

      Do you really believe that?

      1. Blobster

        No. Sorry i wasn’t clear. What I’m trying to say is that he was either involved in a conflict of interest and not telling the whole truth about what he knew and when (in which case he should resign as Chairman of RTE) or, as he claims, he knew nothing about the case until months later and was not kept informed either via RTE or TCC (in case he should resign as Chairman of RTE).

  11. woesinger

    Feck, coming late to this party.

    Sooo – is Mr Prone:

    (A) a rubbish director of TCC – for not knowing what’s going on his own firm

    (B) a rubbish board chairman of RTE – for not knowing about a duff documentary under production by the organisation he was overseeing

    (C) a rubbish husband – for not talking enough to his wife

    (D) a liar – for denying he knew anything about the documentary, when his wife was working on defending one of their clients from the allegations in said documentary and it stretches credibility beyond breaking that she did not mention it to him.

    (E) all, some or none of the above – because it’s late in the afternoon and me head is melted.

    Whichever, it’s a bit of a rum to-do, offering your firm’s PR services to a client to defend them against a documentary produce by the national broadcaster, when your husband (a member of the same firm) is chairman of the board of said national broadcaster. The optics, as they say in the trade, are terrible.

    Mr Prone needs to resign, because even the spectre of a horrific conflict of interest is enough to destroy his credibility. If he had any sense of duty or honour, he would have done so already.

    I won’t be holding my breath though.

  12. steve white

    Tom Savage, told Newstalk he did not learn of the controversy surrounding the Mission To Prey programme until September 2011 – three months after Fr Reynolds started to take legal action

    it wasn’t just any ordinary issue

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