Saturday 21 April 2018

'Keep Tom Cruise out of Firhouse' - protests against new Scientology centre in Dublin

Micheál Martin labels group 'a cult'

The protest in Dublin
The protest in Dublin

Cormac McQuinn and Mary McDonnell

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has expressed concern at the opening of a vast new Church of Scientology centre in Dublin accusing the organisation of being a ‘cult’.

The new complex – which can host more than 1,100 people – opens in Firhouse today.

It’s future purpose remains shrouded in mystery, and there has been speculation it could be used as a new European headquarters for the religion that counts actor Tom Cruise among its most famous members.

Mr Martin was asked about the new Scientology Centre as he gave a press conference at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.

He said: “I would be very concerned about that. I think these type of cults can be very damaging to people, particularly young people.”

However, he stopped short of calling for a ban on the religion, as some countries have implemented. 

Mr Martin said: “The best way forward to deal with that needs to be examined.

“It may not be legislatively. Ultimately in situations like this it’s about education, it’s about informing the public, it’s about promoting self-esteem and self-confidence among people. W

“We’ve a whole range of issues that just don’t lend themselves to a simple ban on a particular issue. It is more complex than that,” he said.

Around 20 protesters, some wearing “Scientology Kills” t-shirts, have gathered at the site in Firhouse to protest the Church’s opening. The anti-Scientology campaigners distributed around 1,000 leaflets in the area on Friday and awaited local residents and councillors to join their efforts Saturday.

One protester had a sign saying 'Keep Tom Cruise out of Firhouse'.

They’re backed by Fine Gael Cllr, Brian Lawlor who told independent.ie he doesn’t want the Church “targeting vulnerable people in our society”.

He said: “I was against it from the start. I got 100 emails from families all over Ireland who got involved (with the Church) and lost money.

“If they start getting tracks in our community, we will stand up to them.”

He said he will lobby to "outlaw" the organisation if they reel people into scams.

Fiona O’Leary, founder of Autism Rights Together in Cork and organiser of Saturday’s protest, described seeing “busloads” of scientologists arrive for the opening. She claimed she saw some wearing naval-style uniforms worn by so-called Sea Orgs – the Church’s most dedicated members.

 She told independent.ie: “It’s really quite terrifying. The Irish flag is up there (by a stage for leaders to speak). There are barricades up on a public path.

 “I’m here to protect children. It’s a public health issue,” she said referencing reports that some followers were duped into using bleach to treat autism in their children.

She added: “It’s not a religion. It’s a scam, it’s a cult.

Protesters are worried the Church will use the building as a base for Europe. “It’s not just about Ireland,” Ms O’Leary said.

 Ex-Church member, John McGhee, (39) from Meath joined in 2005 and by 2008 he had lost over €10,000 on treatments recommended by leaders.

 He told independent.ie: “I joined out of curiosity.  I didn’t think it was pure evil, I was looking for something different. It turned out to be very sinister.”

He claimed Church leaders “bully” members into parting with cash, going so far as to convince people to re-mortgage their homes.

He said: “It’s smoke and mirrors. We want the public to ignore all (their) appeals. Hopefully (the protest) will renew interest.”

He said the Church currently has 40-50 members in Ireland. They’re expecting 1,000 scientologists to attend today’s opening.

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