The Church of Scientology has carried out more than 70 community clean-ups at various locations around Dublin over the past year in co-ordination with local councils.
Dublin City Council’s Central Area Committee revealed recently that a community group called A Way to Happiness contacted it seeking to carry out a clean-up in the Guild Street area of the north inner city, including around Sheriff Street Bridge, on March 2nd. The area is one of the most deprived parts of the capital.
“They cut back heavy buddleia and cleared hard-to-reach areas. Their efforts to improve the bridge and its environs have enhanced the area greatly,” the council said in a public domain report.
However, the action has been condemned by the anti-cult group, Dialogue Ireland, who warned that public clean-ups are a common tactic used by cult-like organisations to normalise their presence in local communities
Similar tactics were employed in Ireland in the past by the Unification Church, commonly known as The Moonies, said the organisation’s Mike Garde.
“Scientology have been doing this for a while. They’re trying to build bridges into the community so they can become identified with positivity.”
He compared it to Scientology’s recent anti-drug campaigns and the efforts of its affiliated association Narconon to set up a controversial drug treatment centre in a Co Meath village.
“Clean-ups like this can almost present them in a favourable light amongst county council officials,” Mr Garde added.
The Way to Happiness is the title of a 1980 pamphlet by science fiction author and Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, which lists 21 moral commandments. Hubbard founded the church in 1953. The US and Spain are among the countries that recognise it as a religion, while other governments have declared it a cult.
In 2016 the Church of Scientology launched a “National Affairs Office” on Merrion Square in Dublin. In October 2017 it opened its European base at a large church and community centre in Firhouse, Dublin.
Responding to queries from The Irish Times, Dublin City Council said its Central Area Office “was first contacted in 2017 by A Way to Happiness. They informed us that they were Scientologists and that they were interested in carrying out a clean-up of the areas around the lifting bridge over the Royal Canal on Sheriff Street Upper.
“The usual assistance, as with other groups or community clean ups, was offered to them and hence were supplied with gloves, litter pickers, bags. When the clean-up was completed. Dublin City Council collected and removed all the bags.”
Asked whether any other religious groups seek permission to carry out clean-ups, the council said “it encourages all community, residential, business and environmental groups to get involved in community clean-ups”.
The Church of Scientology said too many people leave the job of cleaning community areas to the council.
“The Church of Scientology has always encouraged people, no matter whether they are members or not, to take care of their environment,” a spokeswoman said. “Our volunteers have done more than 70 clean-ups at different locations around Dublin over the last year in co-ordination with the respective councils.”
She added that The Way to Happiness encourages people to safeguard and improve their environment and is used by groups and individuals around the world to “bring about moral values in a fun and cool manner”.