'We don't want Scientology rehab centre here', say villagers
Angry protesters turned out to oppose a proposed drug rehab centre linked to Scientology that would be built beside a creche and montessori.
Parents, business owners and political representatives turned out to protest against the 56-bed Narconon facility planned for Ballivor, Co Meath, on the site of a former national school.
Residents are worried about the Church of Scientology's presence in the village of around 2,000 people.
"We're right beside it and there's a creche across the road and a primary school too," said Florence Hamilton, who runs the Little Steps montessori.
"My major concern is that this is a drug treatment facility and it's in an area where there are around 400 young children.
"This would never be so close to children's facilities if it was a state-run rehab centre, so this just doesn't make any sense.
"The county council has never listened to Ballivor, and it's time it started to because we do not want this centre here."
More than 100 protesters carried placards and marched outside the old national school building, which had originally been expected to become a nursing home.
Political representatives said they had been trying to find out what the new listed purpose was and who was behind the plan for several weeks, but were notified only on Monday of the controversial proposal.
The Narconon Trust, which advertises its service online, said it uses an "evidence-based, drug-free approach to rehabilitation developed by acclaimed author and humanitarian L.Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology".
The trust received an exempted development declaration from Meath County Council regarding its plans to develop a drug rehab centre in Ballivor in October 2016.
"Ballivor is not happy with the proposal of a drug rehab centre of this size in a very small community, and obviously it's linked with the Church of Scientology," said Fine Gael councillor Noel French.
"This centre would be using unrecognised methods for rehabilitation, and we think that people will be indoctrin- ated with Scientology teachings."
Englishman William Drummond, who blames Scientology for the death of his brother, travelled from Plymouth to take part in the protest.
Ballivor still suffers economically from the closure of the NEC plant with the loss of more than 300 jobs.
"This is a really small place and the area was torn apart by the closure of the NEC plant and such a high number of job losses," said 22-year-old Paul Rickard.
"We're struggling still and we've been forgotten by the policy-makers in Dublin.
"We're an easy target for such a rich body and we're perfect- ly located for such a facility - we're isolated, yet close to Dublin."
The Herald asked the Church of Scientology in Dublin for a comment on the matter, but it did not respond.