My record speaks for it­self, says Reynolds

■ RTÉ crime cor­re­spon­dent ‘thought it was vi­tally im­por­tant I not be seen to be on any­body’s side’

Irish Examiner - - News - Ger­ard Cun­ning­ham

RTÉ crime cor­re­spon­dent Paul Reynolds has told the Charleton tri­bunal his record speaks for it­self in re­port­ing on An Garda Síochána.

The tri­bunal is look­ing at whether for­mer com Nóirín O’ Sul­li­van in­flu­enced or at­tempted to in­flu­ence RTÉ broad­casts on May 9, 2016, in which Mr Reynolds dis­cussed the leaked O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion re­port into com­plaints by whistle­blower Sgt Mau­rice McCabe.

Mr Reynolds said he would ask what­ever rel­e­vant ques­tions needed to be asked when in­ter­view­ing com­mis­sion­ers, and that Ms O’Sul­li­van had twice walked off dur­ing in­ter­views, and RTÉ broad­cast this.

“It’s a lazy as­sump­tion and un­fair to say that I would be soft on peo­ple,” Mr Reynolds said.

“There are a num­ber of in­ter­views that have gone vi­ral where I have asked dif­fi­cult ques­tions. My record speaks for it­self, I will ask the hard ques­tions when they need to be asked.”

Mr Reynolds said he had a brief en­counter with for­mer com­mis­sioner Martin Cal­li­nan on the day Mr Cal­li­nan ap­peared be­fore the Dáil Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee to ad­dress the penalty points con­tro­versy in Jan­uary 2014.

“He shook his head and knew he shouldn’t have said the word dis­gust­ing,” said Mr Reynolds.

He said the for­mer com­mis­sioner “never spoke to me in any way deroga­to­rily about Sgt McCabe”.

In news re­ports broad­cast on May 9, 2016, Mr Reynolds re­ported the O’ Hig­gins Com­mis­sion had found Mau­rice McCabe acted out of “gen­uine con­cerns” but that al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against a num­ber of se­nior gar­daí were “un­founded”.

Re­ports also stated there was not a“scin­tilla” of ev­i­dence that Mr Cal­li­nan was cor­rupt, and said that Sgt McCabe “told a lie”.

Mr Reynolds said the evening be­fore the first Morn­ing Ire­land re­port, he tried to con­tact Sgt McCabe and left a mes­sage, but Sgt McCabe did not re­spond.

Sgt McCabe con­tacted RTÉ by phone and through his so­lic­i­tor af­ter the broad­casts to com­plain that the re­ports said he had “lied”.

“I knew it would be con­tro­ver­sial, be­cause it’s a big step to ac­cuse some­one of telling a lie,” Mr Reynolds said.

The com­mis­sion said Sgt McCabe told “an un­truth” to his su­pe­rior, Supt Michael Clancy, and Mr Reynolds said he con­sulted two dic­tio­nar­ies which de­fined an un­truth as a lie. “I’m very sure we put it in the con­text that Jus­tice O’Hig­gins said Sgt McCabe was noth­ing less than truth­ful in his ev­i­dence to the com­mis­sion,” Mr Reynolds said.

He said the re­spon­si­bil­ity of jour­nal­ists was not to use par­lia­men­tary and diplo­matic lan­guage they were given. “The duty of a re­porter is to tell it like it is, to get be­hind the word.”

Mr Reynolds said he ob­tained copies of the O’Hig­gins re­port from more than one source, so that he could be sure he had the fi­nal copy, and not draft ver­sions.

Mr Reynolds said he was claim­ing priv­i­lege over who gave him the copies.

Mr Reynolds said the scripts for his re­ports “were put through the full rigours of the RTÉ edi­to­rial process” and were looked at by sev­eral edi­tors and “went right up to the top” in­clud­ing then act­ing di­rec­tor gen­eral Kevin Bakhurst.

“What­ever I was pre­par­ing was be­ing seen by my news editor, by dif­fer­ent edi­tors in Morn­ing Ire­land, News at One, on­line news, and tele­vi­sion news broad­casts at 1pm, 6pm, and 9pm,” Mr Reynold said.

“There is a chef news editor I was in cor­re­spon­dence with all week in re­la­tion to this, the man­ag­ing editor of news above him, and then there is the act­ing di­rec­tor gen­eral,” Mr Reynolds said.

The tri­bunal saw sev­eral email ex­changes be­tween Mr Reynolds and news edi­tors over the week­end be­fore the news re­ports were broad­cast.

In one such ex­change, chief news editor Ray Burke wrote that “it is cer­tain that you and RTÉ News will be sub­ject to sus­pi­cion that we are favour­ing the Gar­daí and there­fore bi­ased against McCabe” when sug­gest­ing edit­ing changes in pre­par­ing the re­ports.

“In fair­ness to Ray, his an­tenna were up,” Mr Reynolds said.

An­other email from man­ag­ing editor Hi­lary McGouran ad­vised Mr Reynolds: “As you know it’s a tricky one, so be con­scious of your tone and de­liv­ery so it doesn’t sound like you agree or other­wise with the var­i­ous find­ings. You don’t want to sound pro or anti any­one.”

“I thought it was good ad­vice,” Mr Reynolds said. “I thought it was vi­tally im­por­tant I not be seen to be on any­body’s side and that I just re­port fac­tu­ally and ac­cu­rately the find­ings.”

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