From the Independant.ie
The daughter and son-in-law of wrongly imprisoned publican Frank Shortt are in the upper echelons of the Irish wing of the Church of Scientology, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The executive ranks of the Irish mission of the highly secretive religious organisation — that counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members — includes Zabrina Collins (nee Shortt) and her husband, Gerard Collins.
The revelation comes as the church braces itself for another high-profile legal battle with a former member claiming he was a victim of emotional distress and was defrauded of €100,000.
Zabrina Collins and her family went through hell in the late Nineties when their father, Frank, was falsely accused by corrupt gardai of allowing drug-dealing in the nightclub he owned in Donegal.
Since the family’s tortuous campaign to vindicate their father, 34-year-old Mrs Collins has risen through the ranks of Scientology to become an executive director. Her husband, as mission holder, is one of the highest ranking officials in the organisation.
However, Mrs Collins’s choice of religion is at odds with her family in Donegal, with her brother, Jalisco, branding Scientology as a “cult” and a “joke”.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent he said: “We still talk to her but we don’t discuss anything about that. I wouldn’t be a fan of that at all — I think it’s a joke, it’s a cult. I’ve asked her ‘what are you doing in it?’ but she’d turn away and wouldn’t discuss it and say ‘it’s none of your business’.”
The religion hit the headlines when actress Katie Holmes made the shock announcement that she was ending her five-year marriage to celebrity Scientologist and Top Gun actor Tom Cruise. Speculation has been mounting as to what will happen to the Hollywood couple’s six-year-old daughter, Suri, who is likely to be stuck in the middle of a long and complicated divorce.
Mr and Mrs Collins, who live in Tyrrelstown in west Dublin, also have a young daughter who is already practising Scientology, according to her mother. Last July, in an interview with the Sunday Independent’s LIFE magazine, the attractive brunette spoke about the role of Scientology in her daughter’s life.
“My husband and I have a little eight-year-old girl. She has studied some of the children’s courses that are available in Scientology,” she said. “I would like my little girl to get the best out of her education and these courses have done that. When she is older, she can decide if she would like to do more in Scientology or not, but that is her decision to make, not mine.”
Mrs Collins also gave an insight into why she joined the organisation: “From the age of 11 I had been looking into religions and philosophies. There are many wonderful and interesting religions but somehow I always found something within them I disagreed with. When I was 22, I walked into a Scientology organisation in Sydney, Australia. I read some books and did some courses and I found something I could agree with and that worked for me.”
During the interview, Mrs Collins made no mention of her father Frank who spent more than two years in jail after he was framed by gardai, who accused him of allowing the sale of drugs in his nightclub.
Mr Shortt received €4.5m from the State for the miscarriage of justice while his treatment at the hands of gardai led to the Morris tribunal’s inquiry into police corruption in Donegal.
Zabrina Shortt was 16 when her father was sent to prison and in the past she spoke of the impact it had on herself and her brothers, Jalisco, 38, and Kristian, 29, and her sisters Natasha, 37, and Azariah, 28.
Speaking to RTE radio in 2005, she said: “When I was 16 my father was sent to prison. A lot of my friends weren’t allowed to come to my house anymore. My brothers and sisters got a lot of harassment at school, both from teachers and from their friends — having papers and things thrown at them on the bus.”
Mr and Mrs Collins live with their daughter in a house they mortgaged in Tyrrelstown at the height of the property boom in October 2007 with a loan from Start Mortgages. Four-bedroom house prices in the area have dropped from around €330,000 during the peak to around €150,000.
Meanwhile, the Irish organisation is struggling to fill a €668,000 black hole in the church’s accounts which is being kept afloat with loans from Scientology Worldwide, according to their latest annual report. The deficit was largely caused by a substantial payout to Mary Johnston following a settlement with the church.
Papers were lodged in the High Court last week by Kevin Stevenson who is suing the organisation for €100,000.
The Church of Scientology would not comment last week on the court case but it is believed it is being represented by a high-profile firm of Dublin solicitors.
The entire wage and salary bill for the organisation’s 11 employees, which includes directors, management and administration, came to €37,000 in 2010, meaning the average annual wage is €3,370.
Two years ago, the Collins family set up a chiropractic business, The Abbey Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, opposite the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin city centre.
Described as ‘Ireland’s leading chiropractic and natural healthcare centre’, it is currently operating with a deficit of €7,000 but the firm is in its early years.
Former Scientologist John McGhee said chiropractic study is popular among members of the organisation because it’s a quick qualification that can be done in tandem with Scientology. He said: “You can earn a good living out of it and that’s why they seem to go into it. They can pay for the expensive Dianetic courses.”
However, Mrs Collins — who is not herself a chirporactor –attributed her business acumen to the teachings of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. She said: “When I first came into Scientology I was working as an office worker in a large travel company — basically just a cog in a big company. I now have my own very successful company with offices in the city centre.
“This I attribute to what I have learned in business administration in Scientology and the competence I have gained working as a volunteer in Scientology.
“I now have a means of financially supporting my family with a lifestyle that far surpasses what I would have had as a general office worker.”
– Philip Ryan