Firhouse residents responded with concern after comments by Leo Varadkar in December of last year defending the government’s approach to the ‘Church of Scientology’.
The Taoiseach had avoided condemning the controversial church, which has been officially labelled a cult in several countries.
When asked about his view by The Irish Times he stated “I know there is a genuine concern about the fact or the possibility that it could be a cult. At the same time I think we always have to balance freedom of religion or freedom of association on the one hand with protecting people from being exploited, and that is always a challenge.”
“I read stuff like you do, I don’t know enough about the church of Scientology to know whether or to what extent the allegations made against them would require Government intervention of some sort.”
His comments came largely in response to the expansion of the church to a new €6 million centre at Firhouse in Tallaght which opened in October of last year, and particularly in relation to community outreach events such as ‘Winter Wonderland’ where locals in the could access a free Christmas fair with amusement rides and visits to Santa Claus.
An FOI of all records referring to the `Church of Scientology’ between January 2016 and December 2017 reveal 12 email correspondence to the Taoiseach, 11 of which were complaints from the general public and one from the Church of Scientology itself.
No internal records of the Department of the Tasoieach referencing the ‘Church of Scientology’ were acknowledged by this FOI for this period.
“I was deeply shocked to hear your comments about scientology” wrote one Firhouse resident. “I would implore that you or no other member of the dail see fit to letting it be known as anything else but a cult.”
Another Firhouse local reported being “left with an uneasy feeling in my stomach” after seeing the new centre and implored the government to investigate the activities of the church.
“It seems that their protocol is to establish themselves within a community and gradually gain peoples’ trust through free events” they noted, stating “I and many others in the community find the presence of Scientology very disturbing”.
Another member of the public expressed concern at the Taoiseach’s lack of action and apparent knowledge about scientology, asking him to educate himself about the church and at least to ‘work privately to ensure it doesn’t get a foothold in the country.”
Previous to the Taoiseach’s comments, a resident local to another scientology-linked ‘drug treatment center’ in Ballivor, Co. Meath had expressed concern about the recent purchase of a site for a multi-million euro facility in the the small village.
“We are all very worried…This site which it is reported they have purchased is across from a crèche and a school in our tiny village.”
A member of the local branch of Fine Gael, he said “I am so worried about (the) matter and I am not getting any assistance.”
The Taoiseach’s department acknowledged receipt of such complaints but did not reply personally.
Included in the records was an earlier invite from February 2017 in which the Church of Scientology sent a magazine to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, which they refer to in an accompanying letter as a ‘special “expansion edition”‘.
They go on to state that they newly opened ‘National Affairs Office of Ireland’ in Merion Square “is a centre and emanation point for the Church of Scientology’s humanitarian campaigns, bringing practical solutions for tackling drugs, crime, immortality and illiteracy and providing educators and others with material, free of charge, so they can provide lessons in those areas”.
It also acknowledges how it has “grown exponentially in recent years” with “55 new churches and social betterment organisations.”