Wednesday 22 November 2017

Last night’s TV : 'Exposed: Ireland's Secret Cults'

Possibly the only people making money from Scientology in Ireland are those doing exposés on it says Eithne Tynan

Knock and the door shall be opened, and so on. Unless you're a TV3 reporter that is.

Last night's 'Exposed: Ireland's Secret Cults' featured a lot of footage of reporters Michael Ryan and Ciara Doherty standing around outside various buildings, not getting in.

The programme opened with the Oxford dictionary definition of a cult: “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members”. This is a bit problematic to start with, because if you take out the words “relatively small”... well, you get the idea.

“Ireland has always had the reputation of being a very religious country but recently all that's changed,” said Michael Ryan portentously. “The power of the Church here is no more.”

Ciara Doherty took up the thought: “In its place new religions are filling the void, ready to exploit vulnerable people looking for that spiritual guidance.”

Had TV3 existed in mediaeval times, Ryan and Doherty could have said much the same thing, considering that suspicious new religions have been emerging to fill spiritual voids for at least a couple of millennia now. But never mind that.

This was an investigation of three groups, two of them Catholic. The third was scientology which isn't strictly a religion but does take all your money. Scientology in Ireland is loss-making, Ciara Doherty revealed, surprisingly. Possibly the only people making money from Scientology in Ireland are those doing exposés on it.

Doherty went off to Spain for her piece on the Palmarians, which was nice. We saw her approaching the front gates of the group's 'basilica', in the village of Palma del Troya outside Seville. She was refused admittance. She also knocked on the door of their church in Clontarf in Dublin. No one answered.

Michael Ryan's report was on Christina Gallagher's creepy House of Prayer on Achill Island. It didn't tell us much we don't already know about Christina Gallagher. More accurately, it didn't tell us much that Sunday World doesn't already know about Christina Gallagher. That newspaper supplied much of the footage, and its resident expert, Jim Gallagher, co-author of the book 'Immaculate Deception', supplied most of the information.

However, the programme did provide an opportunity for us to see our man Michael Ryan fearlessly ringing the doorbell of Gallagher's “luxury home” at Abington, Malahide. No one answered.

Later we saw Ryan outside another of Christina Gallagher's “luxury homes”, this time in “the UK”, which was his inexact description of a village in Shropshire in England. He rang the doorbell. No one answered.

Next Ryan went to the House of Prayer on Achill with a hidden camera. Outside, he questioned a “prayer steward” outside about the Sunday World's investigations. “That's Satan's weapon. That's Satan's total weapon,” said the steward. There's one for under the masthead.

Finally, Ryan tried to get into the House of Prayer on an official visit. There was footage of the sign on the door saying 'No Camera's Allowed' [sic], for the Lord works in mysterious apostrophes. You'll have guessed the ending: no one answered.

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