Thursday 24 May 2018

Residents protest Scientology-linked drug rehab centre due to open beside creche

Local Ballivor residents protest outside the old National School against the proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Local Ballivor residents protest outside the old National School against the proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village. Photo: Tony Gavin
Former Scientologist William Drummond who travelled from Plymouth for a protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in Ballivor, Co. Meath. Photo: Tony Gavin

Laura Lynott

A PROTEST has been held in opposition to a drug rehab centre linked to Scientology which could soon be situated beside a creche and montessori.

Parents, business owners and political representatives, turned out to protest against the 56-bed Narconon facility planned for Ballivor, Co Meath, on the site of a former national school.

The centre -  linked to the Church of Scientology - is unpopular with residents concerned about the group’s presence in the village of around 2,000 people.

Florence Hamilton, who runs Little Steps montessori, which would neighbour the rehab facility said: “We’re right beside it and there’s a creche across the road and a primary school too.

Local Ballivor resident Claire O'Mara speaks outside the old National School at a protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Local Ballivor resident Claire O'Mara speaks outside the old National School at a protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village. Photo: Tony Gavin

“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 they started because we do not want this centre here.”

More than 100 protesters carried placards and marched outside the old national school building - which had originally been expected to become a nursing home.

Signs in Ballivor protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Signs in Ballivor protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in the village. Photo: Tony Gavin

Political representatives said they’d been trying to find out what the new listed purpose was and who was behind the plan for several weeks but say they were only notified 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,” the founder of Scientology.

According to the Meath Chronicle, the Narconon Trust received an exempted development declaration from Meath County Council regarding its plans to develop a drug rehab centre in Ballivor in October 2016.

Fine Gael Councillor for Ballivor, Noel French 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.

Former Scientologist William Drummond who travelled from Plymouth for a protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in Ballivor, Co. Meath.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Former Scientologist William Drummond who travelled from Plymouth for a protest against a proposed Scientology Narconon centre in Ballivor, Co. Meath. Photo: Tony Gavin

“This centre would be using unrecognised methods for rehabilitation and we think that people will be indoctrinated with scientology teachings and it will be run under the teachings of the founder of Scientology.

“We want them to know before they come, that Scientology and this centre isn’t welcome.”

Ex Scientologists Ireland were joined by UK representatives at the march.

Meath County Council said it granted planning permission for a nursing home on the site of the old national school building in December 2014 to Smith and Smith, Rathmore, Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford.

“In September 2016, the Council was asked by Narconon Trust for an opinion as to whether or not a change of use from the permitted nursing home to a drug rehabilitation centre required further planning permission,” a spokesman said.

“Having considered the relevant legislation and regulations, the Council was of the opinion that the change of use described was an exempted development and Narconon were so informed.

“The Council can only give an opinion based on its interpretation of relevant legislation.  An Bord Pleanála is the final arbiter of whether or not planning permission is needed.

“As the Planning Authority the Council’s only consideration is whether or not the site is planning compliant. To date there is no evidence to suggest that it is not.

“All other matters relating to this issue are outside of our remit.”

The Irish Independent asked the Church of Scientology based in Dublin for a response on the matter but it did not respond.

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