Oct 9, 2016

Mayors 'acted as stooges' for Scientologists

Mark Tighe

October 9 2016 

The Sunday Times


Irish mayors have been criticised for appearing in publicity photographs for a Scientology-backed anti-drug campaign that toured the country.

Publicity photos involving the officials were discovered on the social media pages of Scientologists last week by an American journalist who specialises in reports on the religious group. The pictures show Scientologists posing with the mayors of Limerick, Galway and Waterford in August. The politicians are all shown holding the Scientology-backed literature while wearing their chains of office.

The Drug-Free World campaign has been described as a recruitment front for Scientology, the US-based church led by David Miscavige that includes several Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. The campaigners who travelled around Ireland were accompanied by the Jive Aces, a swing band from England who are Scientologists and say they get their energy and happiness from the religion.

The mayors said they were unaware the Drug-Free World campaign was a Scientologist movement. The anti-drug campaign has been criticised for its denouncement of psychology and psychiatry and many psychiatric medicines.

John Hearne, Waterford’s metropolitan district mayor, said he was contacted by Drug-Free World campaigners who were insistent on getting a photo with the local mayor wearing his chain of office.

“It was only after we posed for the photographs that they warned me, ‘You might get a heap of mail saying we’re Scientology,’ but they said that’s only a part of their funding,” said Hearne.

The Sinn Fein councillor denied he was endorsing the Drug-Free World campaign by posing with them.

“As mayor you go and shake hands with anybody who is visiting the area,” he said. “Everyone knows mayors are there to do that.”

“They said they wanted to invest a few bob in drugs projects in the area,” added Hearne. “I was wondering why they would want to invest in Waterford. We have a local drugs project worker. He works for the state. It struck me as strange. They were persistent and did send me heaps of stuff afterwards relating to Scientology and their drugs programme but I pulled away from it then.”

Hearne said he was advised by Sinn Fein not to engage further with the group because of the controversy associated with Scientology.

Noel Larkin, the independent mayor of Galway, failed to respond to calls or emails last week.

Kieran O’Hanlon, the mayor of Limerick, declined to comment. Laura Ryan, a spokeswoman for Limerick county and city council, said the mayor’s office had received an invitation from the publicist for the Jive Aces band.

“The email outlined how the band, who were semi-finalists in Britain’s Got Talent, were taking a stand against drugs,” she said.

“They outlined how they were starting a tour of Ireland and would be taking a stand against drugs and supporting the Truth About Drugs campaign, which they have supported for 15 years.

“They asked if [the mayor] was available to attend a photo-call and sign a drug-free world pledge, which he agreed to do. He was unaware and wasn’t informed by the organisers that the campaign was/is funded by the Church of Scientology.”

The other photo posted online was of Ken O’Flynn, Fianna Fail’s deputy lord mayor of Cork in 2015, posing with Scientologists at their Clearwater base in Florida at the Citizens Commission on Human Rights , a Scientology organisation opposed to “psychiatric abuse”. O’Flynn said he was invited to visit the centre while he was in Florida, where he owns property.

“I have also visited mosques and other religious centres,” said O’Flynn. “They treated me with the upmost respect but I certainly won’t be joining or going back.”

O’Flynn denied that by posing with the Scientologists he was endorsing their campaigns. He added that it was the job of a politician to meet people and discuss their proposals.

Mike Garde, the director of Dialogue Ireland, an organisation that studies cultism, criticised the politicians.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate for mayors to do this,” he said. “The Drug-Free Wold campaign is one of many fronts the Scientologists use to recruit people and espouse their beliefs, which are anti-psychiatry and anti-psychiatric drugs. They are trying to infiltrate local campaigns against drugs.

“The politicians should have done some research into who they were agreeing to stand with. People can be easily led. In Ireland we need to do more to protect people from this group.”




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