A group representing people who have been former members of the controversial Church of Scientology has said it will be joining locals to protest at a site next week that it claims is to be used for drug rehabilitation programmes.
It says the former national school in Ballivor, Co Meath, was bought by the Scientology group at the beginning of last year and is currently undergoing refurbishment.
The Ex-Scientologists Ireland group says the Church, which recently opened a large base in Firhouse in Dublin, plans to run what is called a Narconon drug rehab centre at the Co Meath facility.
“The Narconon programme consists of running, very long sauna sessions and doses of vitamins and minerals many times beyond the safe limits, with serious potential side-effects including organ damage and death,” claims ex-scientologist Pete Griffiths.
The first public meeting about the Narconon development in Ballivor was held just before Christmas and attended by 170 people.
Land Registry documents show that ownership of the site was transferred to a man involved with Scientology, care of a named Dublin solicitor who is known to represent the Scientology church.
Local Fine Gael Councillor Noel French told the last meeting he would be objecting to the proposals for the site if a change-of-use planning application is necessary.
“I would not be happy that what many have described as a cult being present in our community and I will do what I can to prevent it coming into our community,” he said.
“I believe in everyone having their own religious freedom but cults are something else.
“I understand that what the Scientologists want to use the building for is a substance rehabilitation centre.
“I also do have a problem when unproven methods are used.
“Narconon International is an organisation that promotes the theories of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard regarding substance abuse treatment and addiction.
“I had hoped that the building would provide a retirement home and create a few jobs in the village as well, as they are badly needed,” he added.
A protest against the development is planned for January 17 at 2pm.
A public meeting is also planned for 8pm that evening.
Speaking about the protest next Wednesday, Cllr French told the Irish Independent he is “appealing for a big turnout”.
The Church of Scientology was contacted for comment on the Ballivor site and the church’s plans for it, but no comment was forthcoming.
Mr Griffiths, who was with the Scientologists for seven years before leaving and campaigning against them, said a consultant psychiatrist in substance misuse from the National Drug Treatment Centre stated last month that Scientology’s programme has no basis in science.
Hollywood actor Tom Cruise is among the high-profile names associated with the Church of Scientology, a body of religious beliefs and practices developed in 1954 by American science fiction author Hubbard who died in 1986.
The church has had a long presence in Ireland, beginning with a base in Abbey Street in Dublin.
It now has a property in Merrion Square as well as the facility in Firhouse which opened last October.