From top: Terry Prone, Fr Kevin Reynolds and Tom Savage
On May 9, 2012, RTE board chairman Tom Savage, told Newstalk he did not learn of the controversy surrounding the Mission To Prey programme until September 2011 – three months after Fr Kevin Reynolds started to take legal action and four months after his own PR firm (The Communications Clinic) was apparently employed to deal with the fall out from the show’s findings.
He also told an Oireachtas Committee meeting: “(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.”
Which makes this fairly stunning:
The assistance given to Fr Reynolds was not previously disclosed by Ms Prone, who only admitted aiding an umbrella group of Irish missionaries.
This initial disclosure prompted questions about her husband’s knowledge about the early stages of the Fr Reynolds affair. Ms Prone insisted she never discussed the Fr Kevin Reynolds issue with him.
But according to Fr Reynolds, Ms Prone — who runs the Communications Clinic with her husband — agreed to assist the priest with a statement days after the broadcast of the infamous ‘Prime Time Mission to Prey’ programme.
Tom Savage and Terry Prone during Friday’s Late Late Show 50th Anniversary.
RTE chairman Tom Savage remains unaware of any potential conflicts of interest that may arise through his directorship of The Communications Clinic because his wife Terry Prone does not tell him.
…Ms Prone told the Sunday Independent yesterday that her husband, a former priest, only found out this week that his company trained the Irish Missionary Union to deal with the potential fallout from the Mission To Prey broadcast.
The TV personality said she did not see how people could perceive a conflict of interest from the IMU training or from services that their media-relations company might provide to RTE broadcasters.
Ms Prone commented: “People could perceive that I had three ears and a tail but that doesn’t make it fact.”
The Communications Clinic was hired by the Irish Missionaries Union ahead of the broadcast of the controversial Mission to Prey programme which libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds last May but the PR firm has said that Tom Savage – one of its directors and the chairman of the RTÉ board – knew nothing of the account.
Another of the company’s directors, Terry Prone, told TheJournal.ie that Savage would have known nothing of the IMU contract because of client confidentiality.
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.”
The cringe-making language used in the emails was only surpassed by the apparent lack of understanding on the part of Ms Prone as to her role as a part-time adviser on speech writing for a Minister. I loved the bit that included: “Bottom line – us being nice isn’t enough . . .”. Us? A speech writer on a fee is just that, a paid retainer putting a speech into a literary and/or speaking format suited to the client’s wishes and style. He/she should have no role whatsoever in drafting notes or directives for civil servants warning them to deliver on time or else. A minister, or departmental secretary general for that matter, who would allow a PR outsider usurp their position is, in my view, not worth his or her salt.
As a former civil servant who wrote many successful (I hope) ministerial speeches/briefings over the years, I was never subject at any time to school-marmish comments by temporary PR advisers or their ilk, nor would I have accepted same from them. It will be interesting to see if Ms Prone, on mature reflection, might issue an apology to all concerned and confine her BlackBerry use to the contract work for which she is being paid from public funds
In one email, sent in January by Ms Prone to the Minister’s private office, she said: “Bottom line – us being nice isn’t enough . . .
“And getting action out of people may require that action is taken at a higher level with the department.”
Ms Prone also warned the private office in another email sent in February, regarding an event in Dr Reilly’s home area of Fingal in north Dublin, that as he would be speaking in his own backyard he would “ad lib their legs off”. She signalled there would be little for her to contribute in terms of speech-writing for the event.
“I figure I’m severely redundant in relation to anything in his backyard. If he suddenly feels the urge for me to write something different, I stand braced, eager and ready to serve. XXXX! Tess.”
The Irish Times reported in February that Dr Reilly and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald were both paying out of their personal ministerial allowance for the Communications Clinic, whose directors are Ms Prone and Tom Savage, also chairman of the RTÉ board. Dr Reilly said he had paid €15,000 last year to the Communications Clinic.
In very recent days, dirge-delivery has begun to ebb. Matt Cooper, for example, is now hosting a weekly discussion with Maureen Gaffney on how to flourish as a human being rather than get locked into the whinge-box. Government may believe they caused those changes. Sorry, lads, it ain’t so. It’s a much simpler phenomenon in action. Boredom. Dr Franz Ingelfinger pointed out 30 years ago that 85% of all ailments are self-limiting. Including dismay. In other words, we can get used to anything, even diminished expectations, and after a period of time, we get fed up admiring the wreckage. George Orwell, commenting on the austerity years after the Second World War, put his finger on it. “Everyone wants, above all things, a rest,” he said.