"The Cult Buster - Man who wants to bring down Quinn and Gallagher", Sunday World
Garde exposes Ireland’s brainwashing groups, by Nicola Tallant
HE IS known as Ireland’s cult buster – a one-man encyclopedia about everything from the mad Moonies to the scary Scientologists.
Theologian Mike Gardoe, the Director of the Dialogue Ireland Trust, has dedicated his life to informing Irish people of the dangers of getting involved in groups hell bent on taking over your mind and your wallet.
Garde’s work is risky business.
A file is currently with the DPP in relation to a death threat made on him by one outfit and he and his wife were threatened at their home by another religious group he was trying to expose.
He says Ireland has long been a Mecca for such groups because we have no dedicated forum to highlight their mind-bending methods and the psychological damage they cause to individuals and their families.
Garde spends much of the year going around the country to give presentations to sixth-year students set to embark on third-level education, which is a well-worn recruitment ground for many cults.
He also helps families around the world who are worried about their loved ones’ involvement in organisations like Tony Quinn’s Educo cult, Christina Gallagher’s House of Prayer movement, or Scientology.
A few years ago, John Duignan – whose story, The Complex, was published last year – turned to Mike for help when he wanted to escape from Scientology.
“There is no quick solution. My advice is always for people to educate themselves on what a loved one has got involved in and read up as much as possible,” says Garde. “It is so important to be informed.
After that they just have to make a journey with someone and that can be a long journey of realisation that can often take years.”
Those who require specialist help and need counselling he puts in touch with professionals. He stresses the importance of the internet for the exposure of groups.
“Groups used to be able to keep members in ignorance but now people can find material on the internet. It shows there were issues going back to the early 70s, like in the case of Tony Quinn.
“Also we have an Irish archive on every group and there is a blog which gives people an opportunity to make comments.
“I don’t like to use the word cult in relation to any group but what I do look at very closely is the manipulation of people in a group.
“It is not about Waco or Jonestown or some faraway event, but the cultist attitudes and tendencies that can be found in any organisation. If someone loses their individuality because they have allowed their mind to be taken over by a person or a group, that can be deemed as a cult situation.
“But it doesn’t only have to be in the likes of Tony Quinn’s group or in the Church of Scientology; it can happen to on a smaller basis in your local parish, in a political party, banks and in other businesses.”
Garde has got himself into many a scrape over the years but has also had huge successes.
In 1997 he staged protests outside the Church of Scientology in Dublin after Wexford man Odhran Fortune disappeared with members of the group while home for Christmas. The story highlighted the secretive nature of the Church, which has a branch on Middle Abbey Street and which lists a who’s who of celebrity members.
Garde has been a long-time opponent of the Church, which he says isolates members from their families and the outside world and which uses its own form of psychotherapy to brainwash converts.
The Church has attempted to affect his work in schools by claiming Garde is associated with drug cartels in Mexico, is a former racist from South Africa, and even attempted to link him to Fr Fortune, the paedophile priest.
In 2002 he exposed a controversial group based in Wexford called The Pilgrim House Community. They were being funded by the then Eastern Health Board for running a residential centre for mentally handicapped people.
In 2003, he was at the fore of exposing Australian ‘visionary’ Debra Burslem, founder of the Magnificat Meal Movement, (MMM) who operate a similar group to Christina Gallagher’s House of Prayer.
Her followers were convinced to part with vast amounts of mon- ey and properties and to join communes as ‘slaves’.
Garde was in Australia when an Irish woman brought her 15-year-old daughter, who was suffering from leukaemia, to the MMM in search of a miracle. The child died after she stopped taking her medication while there.
Garde wrote a thesis on the MMM group and the document is now to be used in court cases in Australia, where tax authorities are going after the ‘visionary’ for unpaid revenue.
In recent years, Garde says mind guru Tony Quinn and stigmata woman Christina Gallagher have kept him busiest. Both have been exposed in the Sunday World.
“With Quinn, it is a mixture of religious power, influence and money that drives him. It is similar with Gallagher. It is the mental manipulation and control that they use over members that is of concern,” says Garde.
“Most of the calls I have been receiving in recent years have either come from ex-members or relatives involved with Quinn or Gallagher.
“The fact is that if someone is over 18 and wants to remain in a group, just because their family decide they don’t like it doesn’t mean you can bulldoze in and take them out.
“Nowadays we talk about ‘thought reform’, which involves working with the family and the person in the group to seek to discuss their involvement with a ‘cult’. It can be a long process because the person has to realise that their membership was a mistake.”
Garde says he would love to see a forum where professional bodies and the government would work together to keep abreast of religious movements operating here.
“It is estimated that as many as 60,000 people in Ireland are directly or indirectly affected by these groups and their influence. Yet we have no government interest or proper studies being done,” he says.
Article sources from Dialogue Ireland.