Ireland’s Weird Cult World: Have They All Gone With The Fairies?

Nestled among the elegant Georgian townhouses of Dublin’s North Great George’s Street, the vine-covered No 15, with a faded red front door, lacks the designer color schemes of some of its neighbors.

And its unpolished brass plaque that reads “Unity House” gives no real clue as to the identity of its owners.

But if you look at the slightly garish name tag underneath, you’ll see “FFWPU: Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, UPF Ireland, Universal Peace Foundation, WFWP Ireland: Women’s Federation for World Peace and Holy Community of Heavenly Parents.”

They overlook the Irish headquarters of what used to be called The Moonies.

For some it is a dangerous religious cult, for others a harmless organization.

Anyhow, it appears to have migrated from the secular streets of Dublin to the more fertile fields of Armagh and Derry, where it promises to hold “peace marches” later in the year – though whether either city needs more marches is a moot point.

The polite young man who answers the door a few minutes after I ring the bell seems confused by my presence and I don’t really blame him.

I tell him that the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by a disgruntled man – whose mother abandoned him as a child to join the Moonies – has sparked renewed interest in the cult.

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The killer of ex-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe throws down gun when police arrest him

He seems confused about the connection to the Japanese murder and explains that he was on his lunch break when the doorbell rang and that he can’t help me.

He took my details and said he would forward my message to “the director” – whoever that might be.

In the last decades of the 20th century Ireland was outwardly a good, godly Catholic country, where the people were morally guided by bishops and priests who wanted “a Catholic country for a Catholic people”.

Nowadays, “cults” don’t mean as much as they used to, if they mean anything at all.

Faced with contraception, divorce, gay marriage and the liberal agenda, Catholic matrons feared their sons and daughters might be snatched off the streets at any moment – and end up in strange robes, their heads etched with misguided Eastern mysticism or the teachings of the Der in Korea born Sun Myung Moon.

The Family Federation for World Peace, aka the Unification Church, aka The Moonies, was just one of the “cults” out there upsetting the balance of the country’s well-ordered Catholic ethos.

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The Atlantis Commune in Burtonport, Co. Donegal

Among the lesser known but equally feared was the Church of Scientology, whose patient but tenacious adherents stood on Middle Abbey Street for years trying to recruit members; the Hare Krishna in their saffron robes and bells dancing up O’Connell Street; and the clean Mormons of The Church of Latter-day Saints (males) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (females) who spent their days going door-to-door in suburban areas, earnestly trying to explain their creed before the doors in their Church were summarily slammed beaming faces.

Then there was the truly fascinating crew at The Atlantis Commune in Burtonport, Co. Donegal; and on a boat off Baltimore in West Cork, the Blue Marys – who take their name from their long blue robes; and then there were sad little communities like the Plymouth Brethren and Mennonites who eke out an existence in remote untraveled Boreens.

This, of course, is intended to ignore the various “cults” within the mainstream churches – such as Opus Dei, the Palmarians, the House of Prayer, the Knights of St Columbanus (who were said to have had tentacles at the heart of Leinster House and RTÉ) and its Protestant counterpart, the Freemason.

It all seems quaint and quite remote. In Ireland, where religion is more of an obsession than a practice, nobody can think of much to harm cults anymore.

Although there is a website called Dialogue Ireland that is intrigued that Albert Reynolds once attended a Moonie conference.

As someone who knew this former Taoiseach I can say that Mr. Reynolds and his wife Kathleen were both good Irish Catholics who went to Mass – and when Albert attended such a conference there were a few bobs involved and an expense trip too an exotic place where he could enjoy some sun.

In Ireland, religion is more of an obsession than a practice

The Moonies made headlines as early as the 1980s.

“This fast-moving church is anti-intellectual, misogynist, anti-child, anti-family,” wrote schoolmaster Casey McCann to the Sunday independentafter Mary Kenny interviewed a member of The Moonies to “learn the other side of the story”.

There was “uproar” in the UCD in 1982 when Bob Duffy, referred to as the “head” of the Unification Church, approached the Literary & Historical Society, where he was booed and booed after telling students that “Love is central” to her teaching and so are “beauty, truth and fulfillment”.

Since then, the Unification Church has largely gone unnoticed, and it’s hard to find much about it on its website – other than that it intends to participate in peace marches.

Whether it is financially strong or owns the premises on North Great George’s Street is difficult to say, although it has been there since the 1990s.

But what cults lacked in power or prestige they made up for in lurid headlines, and they came across as no more exciting than The Atlantis Commune – known as “The Screamers” for their practice of the power of primal scream therapy, which echoed alarmingly through the gaunt House they occupied near Burtonport.

Led by Jenny James, this group came to Donegal in 1974 to escape the outside world – only to become part of the folklore of rural Ireland.

“Commune residents are popularly known as dropouts from society – partly because they have found society to be woefully deficient and more than a little hypocritical and unreal,” wrote Michael Finlan in the Irish times 1977.

They eventually moved to Inishfree, a small island off the coast of Donegal, in 1980 before heading to Columbia in South America.

There, in 2000, Jenny James’ grandson Tristan (18) and his friend Javier Nova (19) were captured by drunken FARC guerrillas and brutally murdered in front of the eyes of the villagers.

Luckily, the Servants of Love, known as the Blue Marys, are still around and have been a regular sight in Wicklow since the 1990’s.

They live a full-time monastic life of discipline and chastity while remaining in the Catholic Church and run their own business center near Wicklow Harbour.

Whatever it is with cults, you don’t miss them until they’re gone.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/irelands-weird-world-of-cults-are-they-all-gone-away-with-the-fairies-41845511.html Ireland’s Weird Cult World: Have They All Gone With The Fairies?

Fry Electronics Team

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