Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Is It Really All Aoife Kavanagh's Fault?

The longer this Prime Time Investigates debacle goes on – and the BAI Report has by no means put an end to it – the more Aoife Kavanagh looks like being the only person to come out of it with her dignity intact. There is no small irony in that, an eloquent reflection of what a mess the issue remains.

Aoife Kavanagh has taken the fall for the broadcast of the spectacular libel and she is absolutely to blame for a lot of it. Just not all of it. Not all of it by a long chalk.

It’s easy enough to see what happened to Kavanagh. These things can go to the most level of heads. Even the name, Mission to Prey – who couldn’t but fall in love with so glorious a name? You could be in RTÉ fifty years and never get a chance to use it.

You can sense the sense of mission too – 21st Century Ireland rising up to strike a blow against the long oppressor, the dead hand of Irish Catholicism and Roman rule. Ms Kavanagh must have felt like a secular Joan of Arc, in the vanguard of the revolution.

As for the resistance to Father Reynolds’ offer of a paternity test – well, you can see how that would spoil the effect of the TV report, like news crews giving food to famine victims. A penitent priest, having his say, sobbing his mea culpa, doesn’t have the same oomph as the classic TV doorstep interview. There’s no gotcha! effect if the mark comes clean.

So it’s quite easy to see how Ms Kavanagh got carried away, as we all get carried away. What’s considerably harder to understand is how nobody – nobody at all – doubled-checked any of this stuff. The Maid of Enniscorthy is put to the torch while a huge tail of middle management, long and scaly, stands around, shrugging its shoulders and saying nothing to do me with me, bud at each other.

RTÉ, like any public body, is replete with middle managers and meetings and bureaucracy. Managers generate meetings, meetings generate minutes, the minutes generate more meetings – you know yourself how it goes.

Except in the extraordinary case of the meetings to do with this one particular episode of Prime Time Investigates. Nobody took any minutes at the meetings. Not a one. In the age of pens, pencils, papers, iPads, iPhones, blackberries, nobody took any notes whatsoever.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte was at his fulminating best over the weekend, condemning Mission to Prey as being a “shoddy, unprofessional, cavalier, damaging piece of work.” Yesterday morning Pat Rabbitte met with the RTÉ Authority. Reader, if you were the Minister, what would you have done?

Would you have echoed the current Minister for Education eighteen years ago and demanded a head, on the basis that RTÉ has got lazy and smug, and needs a full overhaul? As a member of the Labour Party, would you have agreed with the NUJ’s assessment that Aoife Kavanagh is not being treated fairly?

Or would you wash your hands the thing, leave Aoife Kavanagh toasting on her pyre, and then inform the people that they should move along, there's nothing to see here? How Denis O’Brien must be quaking in his very boots at the thought of this fearless Rabbitte.