THE Irish wing of the controversial Church of Scientology is making annual profits of over €270,000 but its director last night insisted all the money was going to pay off the company's "substantial debts".
A favourite with celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, the local Scientology spin-off has been the subject of numerous protests at its Middle Abbey Street base in Dublin, with a Fine Gael TD branding the movement a "crackpot cult".
New financial filings show the Irish branch's income was €484,000 over the 12 months up to April 2008, despite having less than 400 members in Ireland at the time. Their contributions yielded profits of €271,804 for the year.
"The money would come from selling scriptures, running courses, spiritual counselling and donations," Gerard Ryan, director of the Irish organisation, said last night.
"I'm forever saying to those who criticise us, look at the accounts and you can see any money we make we spend.
"The profit for 2008 was set against the company's substantial debts."
The new filings show the Irish Scientologists had debts of over €1m before the 2008 financial year. The shortfall was funded by "loans from members of the Church of Scientology worldwide", the accounts added.
The Irish Scientologists have previously spoken about opening offices outside of Dublin and Mr Ryan said that was "certainly" still the plan.
"I'd expect to have another office open next year," he added. The church had about 400 members in 2008. Mr Ryan said that number has since grown to "more than 500".
Scientology Ireland has 13 "employees" who were paid over €57,000 between them. "A lot of those would be part-time and we have a lot of volunteers," said Mr Ryan.