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Scientology-linked group wins court battle to allow it open drug rehab centre in Meath village

There has been strong opposition to the centre from locals.

There has been strong opposition to the centre.
There has been strong opposition to the centre.
Image: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

THE CONTROVERSIAL DRUG rehabilitation centre run by a Scientology-linked group has been given the go-ahead to open following a legal battle in the High Court.

An Bord Pleanála’s decision not give permission to Narconon to run the centre in Ballivor in Meath was this morning quashed by the High Court. 

Local TD and campaigner against the facility, Peadar Tóibín, said that the decision was “a terrible result for Ballivor”.

“It means a totally unregulated drug rehabilitation centre will open up in a small rural village in Meath. I questioned the Minister for Health as to whether there was any regulation or licence for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction,” he said.

The site, which was formerly the Old National School in the village, was acquired by Narconon Trust after plans to convert it into a nursing home fell through. 

Narconon bought the site after it secured a declaration from Meath County Council in 2016 that the proposed change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility is an “exempted development” and did not require a fresh planning application to be made. 

However, protesters disputed Meath County Council’s decision to classify the proposed rehab centre as an exempted developed.

The council referred the matter to An Bord Pleanala, which in November found that the change of use of the proposed nursing home development to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was not, in fact, an exempted development. This decision is what has been overturned today.

Narconon welcomed the decision and said it was looking forward to providing treatment in the area.

A spokesman said: “Narconon executives and staff are looking forward to helping Ireland fight the scourge of addiction. In a country where the drug crisis is exploding with 65% of Irish professionals reporting some addiction experience, effective drug rehabilitation is urgently needed.”

Tóibín added that he was concerned with the lack of evidence which shows the alleged benefits of the Narconon treatment. 

He said: “The department [of health] went further and highlighted that there is no evidence to suggest that the drug treatment programme, provided by the organisation I had referred to them, would meet any of the criteria set out by the HSE for agencies that provide addiction services in its behalf.

“It appears that anyone can set up a residential treatment facility without accreditation and regulation in Ireland at the moment. To me this is a major gap in the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people.”

According to its official website, Narconon “uses unique rehabilitation technology that gets to the problem at its source and provides a path for long-term success”.

But their methods have proven controversial.

Their drug detoxification programme uses high doses of vitamins along with long periods in dry saunas which it says is an attempt to flush toxins out of your body. The HSE has previously said that “Scientology’s drug treatment programme has no standing amongst medical professionals involved in the treatment of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders”.

It added that their methods are “potentially harmful”.

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