Residents of Ballivor have sent a clear message to Meath County Council, the HSE and Government that they will not tolerate the Church of Scientology and Narconon locating a drugs rehabilitation centre in their village.
Over 140 people turned out for the protest which was spearheaded by Cllr Noel French and Claire O’Meara of the Ballivor Says No campaign.
The scene of the protest was the former national school which was sold by the parish some years back.
In June 2016, the former primary school in Ballivor came on the market with CBRE, with a half-built nursing home development on the site.
The school building was refurbished and extended to accommodate a modern 15-bedroom nursing home, while on an adjoining 2.26-acre site, some foundations have been laid for a 41-bedroom extension. CBRE was asking €1 million for the ‘Raspberry Wood Nursing Home’ site. The agents are understood to have sold it to another agent, acting for a client.
In August of 2016 it’s understood the Narconon Trust applied to Meath County Council seeking a declaration that the site would be exempt from a change in planning. This was confirmed by the Council.
Cllr Noel French said he was heartened by the turnout for the protest. “The people of Ballivor don’t want this here. We have petitions out in shops, we need our TDs, our councillors, our senators, our ministers and our Toiseach to support this campaign.”
Deputy Shane Cassells said the village of Ballivor needed support and investment and not a facility from “such a shady organisation”.
“I’ve raised this issue on the floor of the Dail with the Taoiseach asking him if this is the type of facility he wants to see operating and the Taoiseach came back and said he certainly didn’t want to see any medical facility operate where there were no suitably qualified people and I’ll be holding the Taoiseach to his word on that so that we don’t have a Narconon drugs rehabilitation centre operating in Ballivor”.
Claire O’Meara of Ballivor Says No group said that the village was completely unsuitable for locating such a facility and she said the campaign to see the project stopped would continue.
In answer to a parliamentary question by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín the Department for Health has admitted that there is currently no provision in legislation for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction.
The Meath West TD asked the question in relation to the proposed Church of Scientology Narconn drug treatment centre in Ballivor Co Meath.
Teachta Tóibín said;
“There is significant opposition and concern in Meath that this unregulated facility could negatively impact on local people.
“The Department of Health also stated to me that organisations which provide addiction services and are funded by the HSE are required to meet minimum standards in the delivery of services across a range of criteria which form the basis of any service level agreement.
“The Department went further and highlighted that there is no evidence to suggest that the drug treatment programme, provided by the organisation I had referred to them, would meet any of the criteria set out by the HSE for agencies that provide addiction services in its behalf.
“It appears that anyone can set up a residential treatment facility without accreditation and regulation in Ireland at the moment. To me this is a major gap in the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people.
“People in the grip of addiction are often at their most vulnerable. Over 80% of people presenting with substance abuse suffer with anxiety, depression and have backgrounds of trauma.
“The State has a duty of care and must protect these people. Surely Minister Catherine Byrne must start the process of developing minimum standards for all residential treatment or rehabilitation centers specializing in addiction. This process needs to happen now.”
Note: Please see PQ below
QUESTION* To ask the Minister for Health if an organisation (details supplied) or its affiliate organisations has been granted certification, accreditation or a licence by organisations under the direction of his department to deliver health, education or addiction programmes; and if the organisation must have certification, accreditation or a licence to deliver health, education or addiction services here.
Peadar Tóibín T.D.Details Supplied: the Church of Scientology
The advice of my Department would be that anyone seeking treatment for addiction should contact their local HSE addiction service.The Department has no jurisdiction over agencies that provide private addiction services.
There is currently no provision in legislation for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction.Organisations which provide addiction services and are funded by the HSE are required to meet minimum standards in the delivery of services across a range of criteria which form the basis of any service level agreement.
There is no evidence to suggest that the drug treatment programme, provided by the organisation referred to by the Deputy, would meet any of the criteria set out by the HSE for agencies that provide addiction services in its behalf.
That organisation’s drug treatment programme comprises a series of interventions with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning.
Only appropriately qualified and licensed people should provide addiction services, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
He was responding to concerns about efforts by the Church of Scientology to establish a drugs rehabilitation programme in the village of Ballivor, Co Meath.
Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells referred to the religious organisation’s attempts to set up a Narconon programme in an old national school in Ballivor and he asked “if the cult’s wacky drug rehabilitation programme is legally permitted to operate in the State”.
The Meath West TD asked Mr Varadkar to send a message of support, as Taoiseach and a doctor, to concerned parents in the village who plan a protest outside the school at 2pm on Wednesday. “They are petrified about the safety of their children,” he said.
The Taoiseach replied: “I am absolutely of the view that the only people who should provide addiction services are those who are appropriately qualified and licensed to do so.”
He added that on occasion addiction services are provided by religious groups. “I know that a number of Catholic groups provide alcohol counselling services and do so very well.”
Fianna Fáil Meath East TD Thomas Byrne said “it is not a religion but a scam”.
The Taoiseach said he had read a little about the issue in the papers but did not know all the details or facts.
Mr Cassells asked if the programme planned by the Church of Scientology is legally permitted.
The Taoiseach replied that no matter what background people came from “it is essential that such services only be provided by those who are qualified and legally permitted to provide them”.
Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells has asked the Taoiseach to provide reassurance that an organisation closely linked with the secretive cult-like Church of Scientology will not be facilitated in setting up operations in a rural village in Meath.
Deputy Cassells made comments after raising the issue directly with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dáil Éireann earlier today.
Deputy Cassells said, “Narconon, which is indistinguishable from the Church of Scientology, is attempting to setup operations in Ballivor under the guise of a drugs rehabilitation project. The so called rehabilitation programmes run by the Church of Scientology and its affiliated organisations have been widely discredited. They are used as a front to indoctrinate vulnerable people, usually young men, into following the whacky teachings of the self-labelled ‘Church’.
“The people of Ballivor don’t want anything to do with Narconon or the shady organisation that backs them. I raised this issue in the Dáil with the Taoiseach earlier today and sought reassurance that the Government will support the local community. 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.
“The Church of Scientology have been attempting to intensify their operations in Ireland. This is a shady cult which has been involved in numerous scandals, including one of the largest infiltrations of the United States Government with the aim of purging unfavourable records relating to the organisation. Many former members of the organisation have spoken out about it’s cult-like activities and how they were viciously targeted by operatives linked to the Church following their departure.
“We do not want the Church of Scientology, or any front organisation linked to it, operating in our community. I’m calling on people to come out and support the protest due to be held in Ballivor tomorrow afternoon,” concluded Deputy Cassells.