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)