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Concerns over possible inclusion of Scientology office in future Heritage Week programmes

The organisation’s Dublin office was included in the Heritage Week programme.

A photograph of L Ron Hubbard hangs in the hall of the Church of Scientology's Merrion Square office.
A photograph of L Ron Hubbard hangs in the hall of the Church of Scientology's Merrion Square office.
Image: TheJournal.ie

THE HERITAGE COUNCIL has not ruled out the Church of Scientology’s involvement in National Heritage Week next year after questions were raised about its inclusion in the programme for the 2019 event.  

The organisation’s National Affairs Office – a restored Georgian building on Merrion Square in Dublin – opened to the public as part of heritage week last Saturday and Sunday, and on Wednesday of this week.

A spokesperson for the Heritage Council told TheJournal.ie that no decision had yet been made on the programme for next year, with the selection process due to commence in early 2020. 

While questions had been raised about the decision to include the organisation, which also runs a community centre in Firhouse, in the programme this year, the spokesperson said that no complaints had been received in relation to the Church of Scientology’s office.  

Labour Party Dublin city councillor Kevin Donoghue, who represents the area, said that he had concerns about any future continued involvement of the organisation, which has been trying to establish a position for itself in Irish society in recent years

While he said it wasn’t his place to instruct the Heritage Council how to run the annual event, he said he would “like a bit of clarity from the Heritage Council on how they choose or make decisions”. 

Ex-Scientologist Pete Griffith had questioned why the Heritage Council had let the organisation take part in the event. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie following Heritage Week, he said that while he had no objections to people seeing the Georgian building, he was concerned that the “only reason that the office exists is to make Scientology acceptable to society”. 

“It all comes down to getting people into the local Scientology organisation,” he said. 

Inside the building 

With the building open to the public for three days during heritage week, TheJournal.ie paid a visit to the 250-year old Merrion Square townhouse on Wednesday.

A brochure available for visitors to pick up at the entrance introduced visitors to the sprawling Georgian building, which the Church of Scientology says it has carefully restored to its former glory. 

Chandeliers, Italian marble and impeccable plaster-work adorn most of the rooms. The Church of Scientology moved into the building in 2016 – a year before it opened its centre in Firhouse. 

The organisation’s brochure described the house as one where ”Irish aristocracy and Dublin’s most prominent leaders once stepped”. It also promoted the chance to book tours of the Merrion Square centre. 

Over the 15-minute heritage week tour, visitors were whisked around the opulent building, which is decorated with symbols associated with the Church of Scientology. Photos and books on the organisations teachings and philosophy were also on display. 

Images of US science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology and came to Dublin in 1956 to open an office (at a different location) in Merrion Square, are displayed prominently across the building – his words, books and ideas are reflected in various rooms. 

The tours were focused primarily on the Georgian and Victorian features of the building, which is currently being used by staff tasked with translating the works of L Ron Hubbard into Irish.

The building is on Dublin City Council’s list of protected structures. Heritage week is a yearly celebration of Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage – it aims to promote an awareness and appreciation of those resources.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology told TheJournal.ie that it had given 88 tours of the building during National Heritage Week.

She said the majority of those who visited the Merrion Square building were interested in Georgian townhouses and that the building was one of few with an asymmetrical facade.

She added that it was the second year that the building had been included in the National Heritage Week programme, and that the Church would be happy to make it available for future tours.

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