Protest held in Meath over plans for Scientology-linked rehab centre

Local Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells says that Narconon programmes have been "widely discredited"

Protest held in Meath over plans for Scientology-linked rehab centre

Protesters at a former national school in Ballivor, Co Meath oppose a planned Scientology-linked rehab centre at the site. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 17.45

A protest has been held in a Co Meath village today against the building of a drug rehab centre linked to Scientology.

A 56-bed Narconon facility is being planned for Ballivor on the site of a former national school.

The controversial church's Irish website describes Narconon as a "Church-sponsored drug rehabilitation programme that helps addicts escape the dangerous cycles of drug abuse", adding that it "utilises drug withdrawal techniques that focus on an intense detoxification process rather than other drugs".

However, the methods used at similar centres for drug rehabilitation in other countries are widely disputed.

The Ex-Scientologists Ireland group says the rehab treatment consists of "running, very long sauna sessions and doses of vitamins and minerals many times beyond the safe limits".

The HSE has warned that Narconon treatment has "limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology", and noted that the methods used could be harmful for patients.

The Irish Times reports that the Church of Scientology here has "repeatedly denied" any knowledge of the planned facility, and insisted that Narconon is separate to the church.

Dozens of people gathered in Ballivor this evening to demonstrate against the plans.

One demonstrator told LMFM: "We do not want Narconon or Scientology in our town.

"We are urging Leo Varadkar, the HSE, An Bord Pleanála and HIQA to please step in and stop this now."

Another local woman explained that she did not want her grandchildren growing up "with this thing going on at the end of my road":

Political response

Responding to a Dáil question about the planned facility yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I would be absolutely of the view that the only people who should provide services with respect to addiction are people who are appropriately qualified and appropriately licensed to do so." 

Speaking ahead of today's protest, Shane Cassells - Fianna Fáil TD for Meath West - said: "The so called rehabilitation programmes run by the Church of Scientology and its affiliated organisations have been widely discredited.

"I was encouraged by the Taoiseach’s reply that those offering drugs rehabilitation services must be medically trained and have relevant clinical experience. This is a view that I support."

Deputy Cassells added: "We do not want the Church of Scientology, or any front organisation linked to it, operating in our community."

Local councillor Noel French also has a number of concerns, explaining: "It uses the teaching of L Rob Hubbard, which are not internationally recognised for drug rehabilitation.

"We had hoped that the building would be turned into a nursing home and provide some employment. But now it's going to be used by the Church of Scientology or its wing Narconon."