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Former reporter’s film in running for Emmy award

An investigative film by a former regional reporter, examining ex-Pope Benedict’s alleged role in covering up the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, has been nominated for five Emmy awards.

Trevor Birney started his career with Northern Ireland weekly the Impartial Reporter – and his latest work, entitled Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, has won international acclaim since its debut earlier this year.

The documentary was created in conjunction with Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney and examines clerical sex abuse in the US over the course of three decades.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles next weekend.

The film follows the story of four deaf men who set out to expose the priest who abused them, travelling from Milwaukee, through Ireland’s churches, and all the way to the Vatican.

In an interview with the Impartial Reporter after the Emmy nominations were announced, Trevor said he was “delighted” with the news.

“We are incredibly proud of the film and look forward to it picking up more awards soon,” he added.

Mea Maxima Culpa is shortlisted for the categories of Outstanding Writing for Non-fiction Programming (Alex Gibney); Outstanding Directing for Non-fiction Programming (Alex Gibney); Outstanding Cinematography for Non-fiction Programming (Lisa Rinzler); Outstanding Picture Editing for Non-fiction Programming (Sloane Klevin) and Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or Special (Ivor Guest and Robert Logan).

It comes after the film was awarded The George Morrison Feature Documentary Award at the Irish Film and Television Awards in Dublin in February.

Former regional journalist Trevor Birney at the awards in Dublin in February

Speaking to HTFP, Trevor said he had dedicated the Irish award to the late journalist Mary Raftery, who not only shone a light on the Irish state and Catholic Church on clerical child abuse, but was instrumental in challenging it.

“She was someone who when it wasn’t fashionable to be taking on the Catholic Church about these matters, she did. For us to do a film now in the months after her death, it seemed appropriate to dedicate the award to her incredible work,” he added.

“Everyone on the team in Belfast worked so hard – I’m pleased for everyone who was involved with it. We’re delighted. Absolutely delighted.

“The film says [Pope Benedict] was not only aware of the allegations, he was instrumental in the management of those allegations and the management of the victims.

“It shows that the Catholic Church for decades has been managing the problem of abuse.”

A father-of-three, Trevor worked as a news journalist with the Reporter for five years before taking up a post as reporter with Downtown Radio in Belfast, then moved to UTV.

After a spell in the newsroom, he became editor of current affairs.

There, he produced another award-winning documentary for the Ulster station’s Insight series ‘When Hospitals Kill’. This resulted in the Northern Ireland Minister of Health setting up a public inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths of young children in hospital.

Trevor then left UTV to set up Below the Radar, which co-produced Mea Maxima Culpa.