Thursday 18 October 2018

Religious cult returns €250,000 to donors

Complaints over House of Prayer withdrawn after money sent back

MAEVE SHEEHAN

A GARDA investigation into a prophetic religious cult accused of duping followers out of donations is winding down after the House of Prayer returned €250,000 to aggrieved donors.

It is understood that two complaints made to gardai against the House of Prayer have been withdrawn after self-styled visionary Christina Gallagher returned €150,000 to an elderly married couple and €100,000 to another man.

The settlements reached with the two donors could mark the end of the road in that particular garda investigation. A third complaint from a former follower who claimed to have been badly treated by the organisation is still under investigation.

There were more claims this week that the House of Prayer continues to accumulate vast wealth despite complaints to gardai and a tax probe. The Irish Catholic reported that the House of Prayer collected €339,000 in donations from the public so far this year and had generated €700,000 in two years from religious ornaments and goods that it had bought for €300,000, generating profits of €400,000.

The garda and tax investigations have proved highly embarrassing for the religious movement, led by former housewife turned self-proclaimed visionary Gallagher. The donors had alleged to gardai that they gave the money in the belief that it was needed by the House of Prayer.

The elderly couple claimed they were impoverished after donating their life savings to the House of Prayer, at the request of Ms Gallagher's associates.

Complaints flooded in earlier this year after publicised claims of a €4m mansion at Ms Gallagher's disposal and a property portfolio. During a mass at the House of Prayer in Achill, Ms Gallagher's spiritual director, John McGinnity, told followers that Ms Gallagher was treated like a criminal and that she "never went looking for money".

Cardinal Sean Brady was asked by parishioners to take action against Fr McGinnity, who is a parish priest in Louth.

Ms Gallagher founded the House of Prayer in the 1980s after claiming to receive prophetic messages from the Virgin Mary. The movement has grown into an international enterprise with a chain of Houses of Prayer in America and thousands flock to her church on Achill Island.

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