Cult Watchers Focus Sights On Drug Centre

(The Mirror, Ireland - 3 October 1998)

Cult Watchers Focus Sights On Drug Centre; Scientologists Under Investigation; Scientologists Drug & Alcohol Treatment Under Investigation

The Department of Health is to investigate a drug and alcohol treatment programme being run by the controversial Church of Scientology.

Narconon, whose Irish branch is run by Scientologist Barry O'Kane, is to be investigated by the department after complaints were received from concerned cult watchers.

This week, a convicted Dutch dope smuggler flew in to Ireland to promote the programme by running from Galway to Dublin as part of a "European anti-drugs marathon".

Paul Ruud, 42, head of the Dutch branch of Narconon, flew yesterday to England where he continues the drive to coax addicts and alcoholics to try the treatment.

Ruud became involved in the programme, set up more than 30 years ago by Scientologist leader L Ron Hubbard and a former convict William Benitize, while he was in prison.

Eight Irish people have already gone through the programme which costs IŁ1,000 per month. It involves large amounts of vitamins, hours of sauna treatments and exercise followed by after-care education using Hubbard's teachings.

Addicts and alcoholics who sign up here have to fly to the Narconon centre in Holland where they undergo four months of intensive treatment.

Barry O'Kane, who signs Irish people up for the programme, denied that Narconon was a recruitment ground for the Church.

He admitted that the Irish branch was set for a major promotions drive which he hopes to carry out through community centres.

O'Kane claims he was cured of his cannabis addiction after he joined the Church and started the programme.

"It's a treatment for drug addiction which involves clearing the body of narcotics through vitamins and sauna treatments.

"After the person is cleared of these substances they go on to the next stage which helps them understand why they used drugs in the first place," he said.

Last night Dermot Fortune, whose brother Odhran disappeared with Church members two years ago, warned that anything connected to the Scientologists was just a hunting ground for new recruits.

"We haven't heard from Odhran in months. He is still with them but we don't even know where," he said.

"People need to be made aware that these Scientologists are behind this Narconon thing. It is just another front for them to recruit more members."