A €9m residential Co Meath drug rehabilitation centre linked to the Church of Scientology has yet to open its doors — almost two years on from winning a legal battle with residents.
In November 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the High Court that An Bord Pleanála was incorrect in deciding the facility at Ballivor, Co Meath, required planning permission.
This gave Narconon Trust, the rehab centre linked to the controversial church, the go-ahead for its plans for the site, originally earmarked as a nursing home.
Despite this, almost two years later, it remains unopened.
‘Anyone can set up a private rehab clinic and they’re not subject to HSE or Hiqa inspections’
Narconon said: “The centre is not open to clients as yet. There is a caretaker is on site.” The spokeswoman did not respond to queries on when it will open or whether the reason it was not yet open was due to a lack of interest from the public.
The Ballivor rehabilitation centre is intended to be the first Narconon facility in Ireland, though the Church of Scientology already has a community centre in the Dublin suburb of Firhouse as well as headquarters in Merrion Square.
Aontú leader and Meath TD Peadar Tóibín, who has been involved in protests opposing the opening of the centre, said he questioned whether the facility will ever open.
“It is incredibly surprising they have not opened their doors, after two years. Particularly given the court battle and that the premises is entirely fit for purpose. If they are saying they have no clients, one would have to question whether there is simply no interest from the general public in what they have to offer,” he said.
The TD said drug and alcohol facilities were in short supply, but said private facilities were unregulated.
“Right now, anyone can set up a private rehab clinic, using any regime, and they are not subject to any HSE or Hiqa inspections. That needs to change immediately,” he said.
“It is a failure of this government that anyone can open a private rehab centre and operate it however they wish. It is not safe practice, especially considering that these patients are entirely vulnerable.”
The site was acquired in 2016 by Narconon Trust, which is registered in Sussex, south-east England, and is linked to the Church of Scientology.
The trust was founded by Massimo Angius, a trustee and director of the Church of Scientology in England for more than 20 years. It has about 40 drug rehab facilities around the world and has spent €9m to date on purchasing and reconstructing the Ballivor facility.
It bought the site after getting a declaration from Meath County Council in 2016 that the change of use from a nursing home to residential drug rehabilitation facility was exempted development.
Claire O’Mara, of the Ballivor Says No action group, said she and others in the community were not against rehabilitation centres, but had questions about Narconon’s methods.
“Hopefully they will realise there is no interest here, that they are not wanted in this community, and permanently close their doors and leave,” she said. “I am not against drug rehabilitation centres at all. I am against this one, though, because of its links to Scientology.
“The property would have made a lovely nursing home, which is what it was originally intended as, and it would have brought jobs to the community.
“We do not want Ballivor to be put on the map as the village in Meath with the controversial Scientology rehab centre.”
Narconon does not believe in weaning addicts off drugs. Instead, participants stop straight away. They get high doses of vitamins, coupled with long periods in dry saunas, which it says flushes toxins out of drug users’ bodies.
In a previous statement to the Sunday Independent Narconon said: “Thousands of people from many ethnic and religious backgrounds have gone through the Narconon programme, reporting that it has helped them get off drugs and alcohol, stay drug-free, rebuild their lives and reunite with their families.”
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