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Scientology-linked drug rehab centre goes to High Court to quash planning refusal

It’s trying to set up a drug rehab centre in Meath.

Signs on the door of a local community centre in Ballivor.
Signs on the door of a local community centre in Ballivor.
Image: Nicky Ryan

A SCIENTOLOGY-LINKED drug rehab centre which had its planning refused despite most of the building work being completed has gone to the High Court in a bid to quash An Bord Pleanala’s decision. 

The centre, which is based in Ballivor, Meath, is called Narconon – a programme developed from the works of L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion.

In December 2014, planning permission was granted for a nursing home at the Old National School site in Ballivor by Meath County Council.

In September 2016, Meath council made a declaration confirming that, in the light of the permission already granted and the similarities with a residential drug rehab, that no further planning permission was required for the site to be used as a drug rehab facility. 

However, An Bord Pleanala made a contradictory declaration late last year. It is this declaration which has been stayed and is being challenged by judicial review by solicitors acting for Narconon.

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.

A consultant psychiatrist in substance misuse from the National Drug Treatment Centre said that Scientology’s programme has no basis in science.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”.

Locals have been battling to keep the facility out of Ballivor and regular protests have taken place outside the construction site. Another protest will take place outside the centre tomorrow.

According to a press release sent out by a spokesman for both Narconon and Scientology, Narconon centres “have been saving lives for more than 50 years in 18 countries”.

However, health services across the world, including the HSE, think their methods are “potentially harmful”.

A statement given to TheJournal.ie by the HSE read: “It comprises a series of interventions (‘Narconon’) with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning and may potentially be harmful directly (with overuse of vitamins and other products) and indirectly in that persons are engaging in an intervention with no evidence of potential benefit for them.”

Fine Gael Councillor Noel French has been part of the movement against the centre. He spoke of his disappointment that the initial plans for a nursing home did not come to fruition and that this drug treatment centre was instead coming to a village of 1,700 people.

“My main reaction was it was an awful pity that the original planning for a nursing home was not being proceeded with. There are about 23 older people from the parish here who are in nursing homes outside the parish. It would have been a great boost for the community

“We are concerned about the size of the centre. There will be 34 addicts being here for rehab. I don’t have a problem with rehab but I am concerned about the size of it within the community.”

In response to the HSE’s claims, a spokesman for Narconon previously said: “Narconon follows the laws and regulations of the country in which they operate.  Narconon prides itself is setting and maintaining the highest of standards in all aspects of the programme.

“This HSE statement is taken out of context and does not include that the person making the statement also said under cross examination that he did not know anything about the Narconon programme and had never met anyone who had done the programme.”

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