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16 December 2003
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Politicians slammed over support for scientology scheme

Sunday Tribune (Ireland)
May 18, 2003


TWO senior Irish politicians have landed themselves in hot water by supporting a campaign to gain Council of Europe recognition for a drug treatment programme linked to the controversial church of scientology.

The two, senator Jim Higgins of Fine Gael and senator Brendan Daly of Fianna Fail, a former government minister, last week distanced themselves from the matter and have claimed they lent their support mistakenly.

The two were included on a list of members of the Council of Europe who signed a declaration supporting a drug treatment scheme known as Narconon. The scheme is controversial as it follows the drug rehabilitation methods of L Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church of scientology.

It has been claimed that Narconon has been used to recruit members to the church, described as a cult by many experts, at the same time as treating their drug addiction. The church of scientology has denied these claims and has defended itself in legal actions, but controversy still surrounds its activities.

The move to seek official recognition of Narconon at EU level is understood to have been started by a member of the council. According to Higgins and Daly, they became involved only after they were asked to sign a declaration supporting the scheme.

Both politicians say they signed the declaration without knowing that the treatment scheme was linked to scientology. The declaration did state that Narconon used the methods of L Ron Hubbard; however, the two said they did not make the connection with scientology.

"It seemed like a commendable organisation and so I signed the declaration. We get asked to sign hundreds of these things, " Higgins said. "I didn't realise it was linked to scientology. I just though it was an a drugs prevention and treatment support scheme, " said Daly.

Both Daly and Higgins said they would not have signed the declaration if they knew Narconon was linked to the church of scientology and both have said they did not want to be connected in any way to the church. Daly said he asked soon afterwards for his name to be removed from the declaration but was told this could not be done.

In the Council of Europe, declarations can be drawn up and signed by individual members.

However, unless they are approved by the parliamentary assembly they have little or no meaning. They are merely supported by those who signed them.

However, in response to the Narconon declaration, a second one was drawn up by another member refuting the first; it was signed by more members. It said protecting young people from drug abuse is a legitimate concern for member states of the Council of Europe, but those who signed it "urge member states to exercise extreme caution regarding methods for the treatment of drug addicts which are not implemented under the responsibility of suitable trained specialists". It claimed that the Narconon programme "replaced drug dependence with dependence on scientology". Supporters of Narconon would deny this.

The church of scientology has many well-known followers such as film stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise, but has always been controversial because of concerns related to some of its activities and the fees it charges.