Scientologists set to convert church – The Sunday Times

Religious movement preparing to bring in 100 staff to operate Victory Centre in south Dublin as training camp for new recruits

The Church of Scientology says it is recruiting 100 staff to help to run a new Irish training centre in a former Christian church in Firhouse, south Dublin, that it has bought for €6m.

The movement, considered a cult in some countries, has set up a Facebook page with pictures of the staff it claims to have recruited for its Ideal Ireland Org.

The pictures purport to show new recruits from around the world receiving their Scientology accreditation after completing various levels of training at one of the group’s bases.

There are also photographs of the recruits arriving at Dublin airport and entering staff apartments, said to be a temporary measure until “we move into the new building” when “they will move into the beautiful staff housing”.

Photos were also posted of a recent event at Scientology’s British headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex, southern England, where green cupcakes were distributed to encourage members to sign up as recruits for the new Irish centre.

The pictures and posts were removed on Friday after The Sunday Times asked the church about its plans for Dublin.

Among the few Irish people in the photos was Michael O’Donnell, a long-time member of the church in Ireland. The caption said O’Donnell was the senior “C/S Dublin” and had completed his new era dianetics auditor course and “Class IV internship”. Dianetics is a pseudo science of ordering one’s mind invented by the science fiction author L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Brian Lawlor, a Fine Gael councillor, has this month obtained an invoice showing the Church of Scientology was paying for the renovation of the Victory Centre, the former Christian church in Firhouse, with a 1,300-seater auditorium and other facilities. An invoice for light fitting gave a shipment address as the Church of Scientology Ireland Community Centre.

The Victory Centre was put on sale by Bank of Scotland Ireland after its previous owners, the Victory Christian Fellowship, ran up debts of €18.5m. Goldman Sachs is reported to have bought the centre before selling it to the Scientologists.

The Church of Scientology has declined to explain its plans for Firhouse. Staff in Dublin and London insist questions must be emailed, but no response has been received since July 5.

Lawlor said his multiple attempts to engage with the church had been ignored. The sect has celebrity members such as the actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Elisabeth Moss.

Nwoga Chukwuebuka Paschal, an African recruit for the Dublin centre who spoke to The Sunday Times via Facebook, said he had signed a five-year contract. He had no idea what he would be doing in Ireland, as this would be determined by how well he performed in his training in America. “I am the first Nigerian to be signed by the Dublin mission but will never be the last,” he posted. “I will probably spend more time abroad within these five years, but will surely have time to bring every good news or package to Nigeria or Africa.”

Lawlor said the Victory church had let a creche for more than 60 children operate in the building, while a youth club had also used the facility. He said he would not encourage anyone to use the centre because the Scientologists were refusing to engage with the community.

“I have been contacted by people whose family members have had bad experiences after getting in with Scientology,” said Lawlor. “It’s a real shame this facility has been lost to the community as it would have made a great school. My contacts tell me this is to be a training facility for [the Scientologists] . . . They have shown no community spirit — by refusing to engage with local representatives — so it’s not a good start.”

Last week security on the site tried to stop a Sunday Times photographer taking pictures of the Victory Centre.”

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