Thursday 26 April 2018

Scientology-linked group 'represented Ireland' at the UN

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Maxwellphotography.ie
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Maxwellphotography.ie
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A human rights group linked to Scientologists lobbied the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney seeking to "represent the goals and objectives" of his Department.

United for Human Rights contacted the Tanaiste in October to request a meeting, but did not disclose its connections to Scientology, a religion that critics liken to a cult. In an email to the Tanaiste, Ryan Ellory, the group's co-ordinator, also claimed to have "represented Ireland" at the United Nations.

"I recently took some of my volunteers to the United Nations in which we had the opportunity to represent Ireland in the UN and meet with Mr Gerry Kelly, the First Secretary of the Permanent Mission to the UN from Ireland. Mr Kelly advised us to reach out to your Department, I was of course aware of the great works you are doing for human rights," said the email, dated October 31.

"I would like to meet with a member of your department, find out how I can best represent the goals and objectives of the Department through my work and possibly gain a little feedback on what I have been doing."

Mr Ellory was referred by the Department of Foreign Affairs to its Human Rights Unit but it is understood a meeting has not yet taken place. A spokesperson for Mr Coveney said: "The Tanaiste has not met this group, nor does he have any plans to meet them."

The email offers further insight into the Church of Scientology's heavy cultural and financial investment in Ireland in the past two years. United for Human Rights is related to Youth for Human Rights, another group linked to the Church of Scientology which sent thousands of unsolicited leaflets and education packs to schools in Ireland, subtly promoting the religion. Both groups were "created" by the Church of Scientology, according to its Irish website.

The Church has spent millions on a national office in prestigious Merrion Square in Dublin and a state of the art "community centre" and church in Firhouse. Scientologists are also linked to a planned drug addiction centre in Ballivor, Co Meath, which has led to protests by the local community. The Church of Scientology in Firhouse has separately funded a public relations consultant to lobby local politicians on its behalf and secured a meeting with the Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy on the "ideals" of the organisation.

The Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has called the Church of Scientology "a cult" that could damage young people, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged a "genuine concern" about "the possibility that it could be a cult."

In his email to Mr Coveney, Mr Ellory described United for Human Rights as "a human rights education initiative" that has been "running out of Dublin for just over a year now". The Irish website for the Church of Scientolgy says United for Human Rights' "volunteers here in Ireland" bring a "message of respect and understanding to schools, teachers, government organisations and churches, to establish human rights educational initiatives, and to support the commitment of the Irish to the protection of human dignity for all people."

A spokesperson for United for Human Rights and the Church of Scientology did not respond to media queries.

Sunday Independent

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