Dublin, Ireland—Down the block from Merrion Square where the new Church of Scientology National Affairs Office of Ireland was about to open its doors for the first time, members of the swing band Jive Aces came carrying their horns and fiddles into a large reception room at the Davenport Hotel.
As they set up quickly, the crowd poured in and carved out a dance floor in front of the band. Ian Clarkson and John Fordham shed their coats, checked their mikes, put lips to brass and sticks to drums and filled the air with music.
But someone steered Kieron Swords aside, gently coaxing him back into the hotel lobby where a reporter was standing, notebook in hand. Swords was good-natured about it, laughing at the prospect of serious talk about human rights—just as the band began to play.
“What does it mean, this office, to Ireland?” he said, repeating the question. The serial entrepreneur of firms focused on precise technology—and a Scientologist and volunteer for 20 years who has studied realities of human rights in Ireland close up—rubbed his hand over his bristly-short haircut and thought for a moment.
“The tone of the country will come up,” he said, “because over the next few years, crime and other disruption is going to go down, as programs mature. We’ll build up some success. We have problems to address—homelessness and the drug situation, and the suicide rate that is so high—but if they can help by just 50 percent, what a difference that would make.”
The programs he was describing are central to the establishment of the new National Affairs Office of Ireland, the first such national affairs facility outside Washington, D.C. The NAO’s mission is to bring education services and materials to Ireland’s people, in tandem with educators, law enforcement, government and community groups, to address drug addiction, homelessness, scholastic struggles, and human rights—educational outreach to help young people, and the communities that help them, understand that honoring human rights in all aspects can lead to better lives.
“People want to put a shield down over their eyes as though homelessness and drug addiction were not there on the streets in front of them,” Swords said. “But when they [concerned leaders] begin to get details of the depth of the problems, and they see these proven solutions for approaching them, something, as they say, can be done about it. It may take a few years, but we’ll see a difference.”
Within the reception room as the band of renown played on, supporters of such social awareness programs were celebrating the new space at 4 Merrion Square where the staff of the National Affairs Office was preparing for their October 15th open house.
Among them was Cass Warner of the Warner Brothers family, who said she came because of her fondness for Ireland, and to witness the opening she called “significant” to social issues there.
“People don’t know what we do,” she said. “And so, we can share with them the knowledge to make a better world, and show how these programs are relevant and that they are very credible—and they work. That’s important.”
Andrew Chalmers, president of the Church-sponsored Youth for Human Rights program for India and Nepal, had also arrived to recognize the launch. He said he’d witnessed results of human rights education programs he’d helped deliver over the past 15 years in both nations, changing lives for the better and strengthening communities.
“Fundamentally, these are all education programs as teaching tools,” he said. “It’s a non-confrontational approach, not to condemn or tell people their views are ‘wrong’ but to encourage understanding and compassion and a willingness to work together to help—to share concepts that show us that understanding the human rights of anyone insures humans rights for everyone.”
On the Square, balloons in orange and green were bobbing, flags and ribbons waving. The house was ready, the sun was out; the tea was poised for serving. And then, the crowd spilled out of the hotel and down the street to pack the sidewalk for the ribbon cutting.
Inside, the heart of the Church’s message on social betterment was waiting. Smiling faces of the welcoming staff stood behind the door—poised for it to open on a new era for the Church in Ireland, and its mission there.
On the street outside, Colm O’Halloran—Scientologist and veteran of the Volunteer Ministers disaster relief efforts in tsunami-torn Sri Lanka—reflected.
“I think it is a monumental development here,” Colm said. “In terms of Scientology in Ireland it is a sea change, an order of magnitude. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to participate, to make things better.”