Protest at drug rehab centre connected to Church of Scientology
A protest has been held in opposition to a drug rehab centre linked to Scientology, which plans to take over a site beside a crèche and Montessori school.
Parents, business owners and political representatives, turned out to demonstrate against the 56-bed Narconon facility planned for Ballivor, Co Meath, on the site of a former national school.
Residents are worried about the Church of Scientology's presence in the village of around 2,000 people. Florence Hamilton, who runs Little Steps Montessori, which would be next to the rehab facility, said: "My major concern is this is a drug treatment facility and it's in an area where there around 400 young children.
"This would never be so close to children's facilities if it was a State-run rehab centre, so this just doesn't make any sense.
"The county council has never listened to Ballivor and it's time it started because we do not want this centre here."
More than 100 protesters carried placards and marched outside the former school building, which had originally been expected to become a nursing home.
Political representatives said they had been trying to find out what the new listed purpose was and who was behind the plan for several weeks but say they were notified only on Monday of the controversial proposal.
The Narconon Trust, which advertises its service online, says it uses an "evidence-based, drug-free approach to rehabilitation developed by acclaimed author and humanitarian L Ron Hubbard [founder of Scientology]".
According to the 'Meath Chronicle', the trust received an exempted development declaration from Meath County Council regarding its plans to develop a drug rehab centre in Ballivor in October 2016.
Noel French, Fine Gael councillor for Ballivor, said: "Ballivor is not happy with the proposal of a drug rehab centre of this size in a very small community and obviously it's linked with the Church of Scientology.
"This centre would be using unrecognised methods for rehabilitation and we think that people will be indoctrinated with Scientology teachings."
The Irish Independent contacted the Church of Scientology based in Dublin for a comment but it did not respond.