herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Scientology's 'Western Family Picnic' fun day fails to pull in crowds

The controversial Church of Scientology in Firhouse
The controversial Church of Scientology in Firhouse

The controversial Church of Scientology hosted a family barbecue in south-west Dublin over the weekend - but next to no one turned up.

Public representatives have raised serious concerns about the church since it launched a "community centre" in Firhouse in 2017.

"Their new centre in my constituency is adjacent to vulnerable communities, that would be my concern," Fianna Fail TD John Lahart said at the time.

Critics

The church, which has high-profile followers such as Tom Cruise in the US where it is based, has faced allegations of aggressively pursuing critics.

However, it seems its attempts to make inroads in Ireland are not finding much success.

The Herald attended the event yesterday which was billed as a Country Western Family Picnic Playday.

An ad on the Eventbrite website showed photos of young children dressed in cowboy costumes playing at a western-themed playground on the sprawling grounds of the site, complete with a mock jail and sheriff's office.

"Fun outdoor games" showing children playing ring toss and panning for gold were also advertised.

The website also promised free children's movies on a big screen throughout the event, accompanied by a photo of beaming children and families in a cinema.

However, while we were there, the playground was deserted save for a scattering of hay bales and an empty bouncy castle blowing in the wind.

The barbecue was moved indoors "because it was too cold" outside and food was served in the cafeteria, said an organiser - even though it was a warm and sunny day.

Demonstration

South Dublin County councillor Brian Lawlor has expressed concern over the church hosting public events in the community after it held a free child-friendly Halloween party in 2017.

Around 70 protesters, including former church members, held a demonstration at the centre when it opened in 2017.

It was the former Victory Outreach Centre, which the church reportedly bought for €6m.

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