Inside the strange world of the Church of Scientology in Dublin – The Irish Times

The Church of Scientology opened a new National Affairs Office on Dublin’s upmarket Merrion Square on Saturday, and it was exactly as strange as you might imagine.

I somehow found myself at the launch, almost by accident, through a friend who had received an invitation. Not there as a journalist, I was afforded an interesting insight into the strange world of Scientology and what it hopes to do here in Ireland.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the church held a party in the Davenport Hotel around the corner from their new office. As I wandered into the lobby feeling more out of place than I have in my life, an American woman with a painfully wide smile greeted me asked me if I was there for the dancing. I was led to a room with food, drinks and a live swing band.

Everyone was beautifully dressed and having the time of their lives. Or so it seemed. It turns out Scientologists are excellent dancers.

Nothing in the room indicated this event had anything to do with Scientology, until you started talking to people. Almost no one in the room was Irish, and it was clear (from an overheard conversation) that many of them had been flown in from the US and the UK for the event. The National Affairs Office staff are all new too, they arrived from their respective countries just last week, according to a number of them I spoke to.

Chatting to someone whose business card described them as ‘The Way to Happiness Co-ordinator’, I was told about the plans for the new office. She explained that this would be a secular branch of the church, not trying to convert people but just helping with social issues. She particularly stressed that they would be fighting for our human rights, human rights we don’t even know we have. The room was very loud so I couldn’t get more detail on that.

The Executive Director, whose business card does not have her name printed on it, said later the group would be trying to help with Ireland’s drug abuse and homelessness problems, and urged people to “bring your friends and allies” to the centre on Merrion Square.

The opening ceremony, in front of the Merrion Square property, was nearly normal, except for the number flags and tri-colour themed decorations which could only have been organised by an American. Irish patriotism is more Taytos than flags. Once the ribbon was cut and Merrion Square duly filled with green, white and orange balloons and confetti, I was able to take a look inside.

The building has been beautifully restored using all the original features, but there is no doubt who is in charge. Scientology branded displays are everywhere. There are shelves full of L Ron Hubbard novels and displays detailing Hubbard’s life story, the rules members must live by, the church’s successes and how far they’ve spread themselves around the world cover every wall.

The staff were very welcoming and kind and utterly dedicated to their cause. The evangelism was palpable. It had the same sort of eerie unreality that I’ve only previously experienced while touring the Google offices.

The church has very clearly sized up Ireland’s problems and is keen to employ its methods to deal with them. What exactly that looks look like is less clear.

Saturday’s events gave the impression that the Church of Scientology’s National Affairs Office is on a mission and nothing is going to get in its way.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/inside-the-strange-world-of-the-church-of-scientology-in-dublin-1.2831493

The Phoenix, 13/02/2015 – “Zabrina Collins”

Last weekend a conference was held in Dublin by former members of the Church of Scientology, who told of their alleged experiences of fraud and abuse at the cult. But one woman who stayed far away from the conference is Zabrina Collins (36), a formidable, high-ranking member who acts as part-spokesperson, part-stormtrooper for the group, which first set up an office in Ireland in 1956. Collins is currently at the centre of a bitter legal dispute with two former Scientologists who campaign against the organisation, with plenty of mud being flung on both sides.

There are some admirable qualities in terms of what Scientology purports to do, such as the search for truth and helping people who have suffered trauma in their lives. The problem is that there can be a heavy price to be paid – not just in a monetary sense – to be a member of this controversial cult. And frequently, when people leave Scientology, things tend to get nasty.

In 2003, for example, a former member named Mary Johnston sued the Dublin Scientology mission in the High Court for psychological and psychiatric injuries inflicted upon her during her time as a member in the 1990s. The case was settled out of court. More recently, another ex-member, Kevin Stevenson, lodged High Court proceedings against Scientology in 2012 for alleged fraud and infliction of emotional suffering (see The Phoenix 22/3/13). Stevenson claimed to have been duped out of around €100,000 by the Scientologists, although he withdrew his case last year. Another frequently made criticism of Scientology which is thought to only have around 50 committed members in Ireland, where it is headquartered a premises on Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 – is that it encourages its followers to cut off contact with non-Scientologist family members.

The cult’s staunchest critics tend to be former members. Leading the charge against Scientology in Ireland is former member Pete Griffiths, who lives in Mayo and spends much of his time campaigning against Scientology. (Griffiths organised the recent conference about Scientology, which featured among others BBC reporter John Sweeney, who made a well-known documentary about Scientology in 2007.) Griffiths, who is British, joined Scientology in 1987 in England together with his (now ex-) wife.

He and his wife later joined the organisation’s staff and even spent short stints working for Scientology in the US, before eventually leaving in 1994 and subsequently relocating to Ireland. He became involved in the anti-Scientology movement in 2008 after meeting someone on their way to protest at the Scientology mission in Dublin.

In May 2013, Griffiths visited St David’s CBS, a secondary school in Artane, Dublin, where, according to a court document, he gave a talk “warning about the dangers of cults in general and Scientology in particular.” It is claimed that two days later, Collins emailed the school principal and referred to herself as a “concerned parent.” The email allegedly described Griffiths as “an avid hate campaigner against Scientology in Ireland” and continued, “By welcoming such a character into your school and allowing him a platform to propagate his hate mongering both you and he have grossly violated the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act.”

The email also allegedly stated that Griffiths’ aim was to “instill hatred and support criminal activity” and claimed that he was being kept under surveillance by the Gardai and had caused criminal damage to “our property just a few weeks ago.” According to a court document, the email also implies that Griffiths (who is gay) is a paedophile and “poses a threat to children.”

Griffiths issued defamation proceedings against Collins in the Circuit Court last year, which look set for a full hearing later this year. But there is now another case linked to the defamation action, in which Collins is suing Griffiths and another former Scientologist, John McGhee, for alleged assault.

The assault case has its origins in incidents in Dublin‘s city centre last December. In the High Court that month, Collins and another Scientologist, Michael O’Donnell, obtained restraining orders against Griffiths and McGhee, after telling the court that they had been harassed and intimidated by the former Scientologists while handing out anti-drugs leaflets, as part of a campaign known as ‘The Truth About Drugs’.

The cult’s members are now suing Griffiths and McGhee for alleged assault in the Circuit Court, which made an order last month that the assault case and the defamation case are to be heard at the same time. In an affidavit, McGhee – who is representing himself- denied claims that any assault had taken place, but admitted taking some leaflets from Collins’s carrier bag and putting them in a rubbish bin. (Griffiths also denies assaulting the pair.) Zabrina Collins is originally from Co Donegal and is the daughter of nightclub owner Frank Shortt, who was framed by Gardai in the 199os and who was wrongly convicted of allowing drugs to be sold in his nightclub, for which he was awarded more than €4.5m by the State in 2007. His daughter first became involved in Scientology while in Australia in 2000 and became active in the Irish branch the following year, after returning home. She later married another senior member, Ger Collins, whose title is ‘Mission Holder,’ which effectively makes him the most senior Scientologist in Ireland. Zabrina Collins has acted as ‘Ethics Officer’ in the cult. In an affidavit sworn as part of the assault case, McGhee claimed that Collins’s duties as Ethics Officer “included disciplining Scientologists who were not living by the rules of the cult and ordering the disconnection of family members who may be hostile to their loved one’s choice of religion.” Collins was later promoted to the ‘Office of Special Affairs’, a role that involves dealing with Scientology critics, and former members of the cult in particular.

Collins’s commitment to Scientology is clearly a fulltime job, although she and her husband also own a chiropractors, Abbey Chiropractic and Wellness Center, on Parnell Street, Dublin 1. (This company showed accumulated losses of €42,000 in its most recent accounts, made to the end of 2012.)

Meanwhile, a considerable amount of Collins’s time this year is likely to be spent on her legal duel with Griffiths and McGhee. At a court sitting last month, the Circuit Court’s Judge Jacqueline Linnane warned the two sides that they potentially faced a massive legal bill if the cases went ahead. But neither side look set to back down. Representing Collins in both cases is a British solicitor, Peter Hodkin, a card carrying Scientologist whose firm acts for the Scientologists in the UK.

“Scientology: Enough is Enough”

Ex-members of the Cult of Scientology speak out against its fraud and abuse at a Dublin conference.

Friday February 6th 2014 from 6:30 p.m. and Saturday February 7th 2014 from 12 noon.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/596345363824490/

Some of the special guests at the conference will include:

John Sweeney (author of Church of Fear : Inside The Weird World of Scientology)
Russell Miller (author of Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard)
Nancy Many (author of My Billion Year Contract: Memoir of a Scientologist)
Markus Thöß (film maker)
Stephen Jones (ex-Sea Org)
Samantha Domingo (ex-Sea Org)
Dee Findlay (ex-Guardian’s Office volunteer)
Victoria Britton

Exposing Scientology's fraud and abuse in Dublin