Church of Scientology offshoot spent €2m on drug rehab facility in Meath

By Roisin Burke

Narconon, an offshoot of the Church of Scientology, has spent close to €2 million establishing its Meath “drug treatment” facility, new¬ly-filed financial statements show. Narconon Trust bought the property in Ballivor, Co Meath in 2016, but its 56-bed drug rehabilitation service has yet to open, due to a planning battle. The High Court ruled in its favour last year, but the mat-ter has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Financial Statements for the British – registered charity show that the International Association of Scientologists, which is its principal funder, provided renovation and set¬up funding of £1.71 million (€2 million) to Narconon Ire¬land during 2019. Its total re-serve funds at the end of that year came to £10.9 million. Further grant funding in-cluded security and operation monies of £123,942 to the Irish unit. An update on its objectives said that its charitable activities for the year to the end of December 2019 included “planning the opening of an-other site for the rehabilitation of drug users in Ireland”. “The grants received during the year enabled the char- ity to purchase a freehold property in the Republic of Ireland, which is to be used to deliver the charity’s aims and objectives of reforming and rehabilitating persons who have been addicted to drugs,” it said. Narconon’s controversial treatment methods, such as drug-free withdrawal techniques, have been criticised by medical professionals. The Department of Health has said previously that its method “comprises a series of interventions with limited or no basis in a scientific under¬standing of human physiology and brain functioning”. However, the Church of Scientology in Ireland has said that Narconon centres are set up to comply with “the highest health and safety standards in each country where they operate”. It claims that thousands of people have successfully completed drug and alcohol treatment pro¬grammes. Since plans for the site be-came known, there has been a series of vociferous protests by local people and anti-Scientology campaigners, while Narconon’s representatives have argued that it is bringing jobs to the area. Narconon Trust purchased the property in Ballivor in 2016, after Meath County Council confirmed that planning permission was not required for a change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation centre. In February 2018, as the development was nearing completion. Ballivor Community Group and Trim Municipal District of Meath County Council sought various declarations from the council, asking if the proposed centre was an exempted development. The council referred the matter to An Bord Pleanala, w hich in November that year held that the change of use would need a new application. In January 2020, the High Court quashed the An Bord Pleanala decision, allowing the centre to open. Ihe court decided that the planning authority did not have the power to make decisions about the council’s 2016 ruling, as there had been no change of circumstances, and that mandatory procedures to challenge the decision had not been followed. This decision is now’ being appealed to the Supreme Court bv An Bord Pleanala. When contacted for com-ment, Massimo Angius, a Narconon Trust and Church of Scientology director, said: “The High Court quashed the An Bord Pleanala decision in January 2020. They appealed, and we are awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeal currently. ”


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