An action for defamation taken by a Co Galway priest against RTÉ over a Prime Time Investigates programme has been settled at the High Court.

Fr Kevin Reynolds, 65, the parish priest of Ahascragh in Co Galway, sued RTÉ in relation to the programme broadcast in May.

The programme falsely alleged that he had sexually abused a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982, fathered a child by her and abandoned the child.

The false allegations were also broadcast on RTÉ's Morning Ireland the following morning.

A paternity test showed Fr Reynolds was not the father of the child.

RTÉ has apologised fully and unreservedly to Fr Reynolds and has said the programmes should never have been broadcast.

As part of the settlement a lengthy statement was read to the court, a correction order has been made by the High Court and substantial compensatory and aggravated damages are to be paid to Fr Reynolds as well as his legal costs.

The amount of damages being paid to Fr Reynolds is confidential as part of the agreement.

The defamation action was due to begin this morning, but just after 2pm, Mr Justice Eamon De Valera was told the matter had been settled.

Read the correction order

Statements

The lengthy statement outlining the terms of the settlement was read to the court by lawyers for Fr Reynolds.

The statement said RTÉ had been afforded every opportunity to review its position and remove any reference to Fr Reynolds before the programme was broadcast.

A Prime Time Investigates team first approached Fr Reynolds on 7 May 2011 without any notice and put the allegations to him.

He denied the allegations and his solicitors then wrote to RTÉ on a number of occasions repeating the denials.

He offered to undergo a paternity test before the programmes were broadcast, but RTÉ refused this offer.

The statement said RTÉ and reporter Aoife Kavanagh had choices: choices prior to the broadcast, choices in the manner in which the case was approached and the paternity test addressed after the broadcast.

The choices made by RTÉ were utterly misjudged and wrong, the court was told, and had an utterly devastating impact on Fr Reynolds.

He was removed from public ministry following the programme but returned to his parish last month.

The statement says Fr Reynolds suffered irreparable damage to his reputation.

His life was utterly altered and he was removed from his home and his community.

Upset and stress were caused to his family, friends, parishioners, fellow priests, members of his missionary society and members of the Catholic Church in Ireland and abroad.

Despite his vindication through the results of the tests and the retraction of the allegations by RTÉ, he still feels very upset by the damage to his good name, reputation and network of relationships in Ireland and in Africa.

The court was told that despite his reinstatement as parish priest he feels personally damaged and the scars remain.

His 40th Jubilee year as a priest has been marred by "the enormity of the abhorrent crime of which he was publicly and globally accused".

The statement read in court said RTÉ now stated that the programmes ought never to have been broadcast.

It said all the allegations against Fr Reynolds were baseless, without any foundations whatsoever and untrue and the allegations should never have been put to Fr Reynolds without prior notice.

It said the programmes should not have been broadcast following on the denials from Fr Reynolds himself and the denials in his solicitors' letter of 11 May.

RTÉ said the programmes should not have been broadcast in light of the fact that Fr Reynolds offered to undergo a paternity test before the programmes were broadcast, and RTÉ refused this offer.

RTÉ also said the programmes ought not to have been broadcast in light of the correspondence that had passed between RTÉ and Fr Reynolds' former bishop in Kenya, Bishop Sulumeti, stating the allegations were untrue.

RTÉ also stated Fr Reynolds was and always had been a priest of utmost integrity and had an unblemished 40 years in the priesthood and had made a valuable contribution to society in Kenya and in Ireland both in education and in ministry.

Fr Reynolds did not comment after the case but Fr Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests said they were delighted that Fr Reynolds had been totally and absolutely vindicated.

He said they were happy that the correction order made by the court would allow the public record to be corrected and was very important.

He said he hoped Fr Reynolds could now get on with the rest of his life.

Fr McDonagh said he hoped this would be a wake-up call. He said he would not prejudge the results of the review being carried out by Press Ombudsman John Horgan.

Mr Justice De Valera said it was clearly important that appropriate lessons from this affair were learned and acted upon.