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Tipperary Former Bishop Suing RTE

Former Archbishop Richard Burke

A former Tipperary cleric, named in the Prime Time Investigates programme, which seriously libelled Fr. Kevin Reynolds, is now also suing RTE for character defamation.

The former member of the Kiltegan Fathers in Wicklow, Archbishop Richard Burke, who hails from Lisronagh, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, served with the Society of African Missions (SMA) and claims he stands falsely accused by the Prime Time programme “A Mission to Prey,” of child abuse while he was a priest in Warri Diocese, Nigeria.

He has admitted having a sexual relationship with a woman, but claimed she was an adult at the time and that the relationship was fully consensual. The woman,  Miss Dolores Atwood, currently resident in Canada, is understood to have complained to the Vatican, triggering his resignation almost two years ago, as Metropolitan Archbishop of Benin City.

The programme “A Mission to Prey,” included the case of Bishop Burke in its deficient investigation of clerical abuse by missionary priests in Africa. The same programme also falsly accused Fr Kevin Reynolds of raping a 14-year-old girl and fathering her child, resulting in the biggest libel settlement in Irish TV history.

Bishop Burke now claims that he also was libelled and has begun legal proceedings against RTE, represented by Robert Dore, the lawyer who successfully acted on behalf of Fr.Kevin Reynolds. An affidavit outlining his complaint against the broadcaster has now been filed in the High Court.

Bishop Burke has admitted failing to observe his personal oath of celibacy, by having a relationship with a woman, but claims that he was libelled by accusations that the relationship began when the woman was under age. In his statement, he said: “She and I had a caring relationship that began in the latter part of 1989, when she was 21 and I was 40. I was posted back to Ireland in March 1990 and returned to Nigeria in April 1996.”

A subsequent inquiry by the Kiltegan Fathers found no evidence to corroborate the claims made by the RTE programme.

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