Ex-Scientology member says church uses 'divide and conquer' approach with small towns

A former member of the Church of Scientology has claimed the organisation uses a 'divide and conq...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

19.56 29 Sep 2020

Share this article

Ex-Scientology member says chu...

Ex-Scientology member says church uses 'divide and conquer' approach with small towns

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

19.56 29 Sep 2020

Share this article

A former member of the Church of Scientology has claimed the organisation uses a 'divide and conquer' approach to towns.

It comes as a drug rehabilitation centre, run by the controversial church, is being built in Co Meath.

Earlier this year the High Court quashed An Bord Pleanála's decision over the facility in Ballivor.


The planning decision was issued in November 2018 over the Narconon centre.

The board found that the change of use from a nursing home development to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was not exempted development.

The 56-bed facility is being built on the site of a former national school.

Planning permission was granted in 2014 for a nursing home at the site - but the nursing home was not built.

The organisation'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.

Narconon A 2018 photo of a former national school in Ballivor, Co Meath where a new Scientology religious centre is proposed | Image: Eamonn Farrell/

'Be weary of strangers bearing gifts'

Ex-member John McGhee used to work in the organisation's Dublin office.

He told Henry McKean for The Hard Shoulder that they are using different names for their front groups.

"They would use 'love bombing', so they would approach business and clubs [and] offer to donate sizably to their clubs or societies.

"They approached the GAA club which resulted in the GAA accepting €20,000 in donations from Scientology.

"This results in a divide and conquer scenario within the town, where the townspeople are turning against each other: because some are willing to take the donation, and some use the old wisdom of being weary of strangers bearing gifts.

"This often happens when Scientology are concerned.

"People turn on each other and this distracts the people from protesting the group and getting them out of their vicinity.

"People are afraid to voice their concerns because they don't know who they're speaking to - they don't know who could be spying on them, or who could be a Scientologist.

"They permeate the town like that and create division".

He also said one of their groups has "managed to get into Irish primary schools" to talk to young people.

Pete Giffiths, who got out of Scientology in the UK, said: "Scientology claims that Narconon is a drug habilitation programme, but the actual steps of that programme are no different to Scientology training.

"It's actually the very same stuff.

"You do a communication course, you do a purification rundown, but you're doing Scientology: it is no different at all", he claimed.

"Unfortunately Narconon isn't successful, it causes more problems than it relieves shall we say.

"In the United States there's been well over a dozen deaths in the last 10 years - and it's dangerous and expensive, let's not forget that.

"In Ireland, most people with drug problems have been pretty poor and can't afford it.

"If you've got a rich family, your rich family might well decide that it's worth taking a chance.

"My advice is don't bother - just stay away, it is not good, it is dangerous and it could ultimately cost your life".

'Everyone is entitled to help'

Some residents in the village are open to the idea of the centre, but there has been an ongoing campaign to keep it shut.

One woman said: "Everyone is entitled to help, regardless of who they are, whether they're rich or poor.

"I wouldn't approve of the Church of Scientology, from all I know about them, I wouldn't approve.

"I think if you're a Christian then follow your Christian faith, it should not worry you".

Another woman said she was not concerned: "I don't mind it like... I was only asking there a while back and I was out walking the dog and I was asking what's the story, was it opened - and they told me it might be next year".

Sue Davis said she is not a supporter of the centre.

"I kind of was a little but surprised because of the type of drug rehabilitation it is.

"I don't think it'll be a plus in the village because it doesn't bring employment to the village, it's just not good for the village.

"I don't want it, no, and I never did want it.

"We were part of a group of women in the village and we got together and we had a Ballivor Says No[group], we had a group of people and we kind of fought against having it in the village."

"Some of the concerns would be that they actually go into saunas for hours on end, and we know people that are ex-Narconon - they would have been Scientology or whatever.

"They would have been in for a lot of years, and they said the saunas and all that is crazy what it does to their body, and the cold turkey that they feel they they're going through".

Church of Scientology response

In response Diana Stahl, director of public affairs at the Church of Scientology Ireland, told Newstalk: "Narconon centres operate successfully in 20 countries around the world and are set up to comply with the highest health and safety standards in each country where they operate.

"All participants are required to have approval from a medical doctor in order to start the programme.

"In order to be accepted for the programme some people must do a medically supervised withdrawal elsewhere before they can start."

She also said while its centres are not regulated by the HSE and HIQA, no private drug rehab centre in Ireland is regulated.

She added: "Narconons are regulated in other countries, and we have no problem with this.

"Thousands of people have successfully completed the Narconon programme and enjoy lives free from drug and alcohol abuse as a result."

"Narconon is a drug-free, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme with proven success."

Main image: The Church of Scientology development in Ballivor, Co Meath. Picture by: Twitter/@HenryMcKean

Share this article

Read more about

Ballivor Church Of Scientology Co Meath Diana Stahl John McGhee Narconon Pete Giffiths Scientology In Ireland The Hard Shoulder

Most Popular