The High Court has allowed RTÉ to have another week to file its defence against a claim by a former missionary priest that he was defamed by a Prime Time Investigates programme.

Fr Kevin Reynolds says he was defamed in the programme "A Mission to Prey", broadcast on 23 May of this year.

The court heard the programme alleged he had raped an underage girl in Kenya and had fathered a child by her.

The High Court heard today that two paternity tests carried out recently showed that Fr Reynolds was not the father of the child, who is now 29 years old.

Fr Reynolds is parish priest of Ahascragh, Co Galway, but had to step down from his role after the allegations were made.

The court heard his order, the Mill Hill missionaries, has allowed him to return to carrying out his duties as a priest in light of the findings of the paternity tests. He has not yet returned to his parish as that is a decision that must be made by his diocese.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy asked lawyers for RTÉ to tell him what their defence to the action would be.

Senior Counsel for RTÉ, David Keane, said the matter was being given grave consideration by RTÉ and his client was considering a defence of fair and reasonable publication in the public interest. The court heard RTÉ would not now be pleading a defence of justification.

Lawyers for Fr Reynolds said RTÉ had been aware since the 11 May, before the programme was broadcast, that the allegations were being denied.

Mr Justice McCarthy said that in the environment in which we now live in it was hard to consider that anything more serious could be said about a cleric.

The judge said it was wholly unsatisfactory that RTÉ was not in a position to tell him what the defence would be.

However, he said he would grant RTÉ until Thursday week to deliver its defence as he said the matter could not go before a jury until November at the earliest.