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File photo, Leah Farrell/

Scuffles in court as Enoch Burke sent back to prison again for failing to purge contempt

The former teacher has spent over 300 days in prison.

A HIGH COURT judge has again sent teacher Enoch Burke back to Mountjoy Prison where he has spent over 300 days over his failure to comply with an order to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

During what was at times a heated hearing, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey had offered to temporarily release Burke from prison, in the hope that the teacher would use the time the school was on holidays to reflect on his position.

However, Burke refused to address the court’s proposal, and accused the judge of not doing his duty by ruling in what the teacher said was a lie told to the court by a solicitor acting for the school in a sworn statement to the court.

Burke, supported by members of his family, demanded that the court deal with the alleged lies in relation to security arrangements that were put in in place at the school, as reported on during the week by the Irish Independent newspaper.

Alex White, Senior Counsel for the school said the security was put in place in relation to a matter unrelated to Burke, and was over a dispute with a contractor.

When Mr Justice Sanfey dismissed the teacher’s submissions on that point, Burke repeatedly demanded that the court “do its duty” and “deal with the lies”.

Mr Justice Sanfey ruled that Burke was not addressing the offer to be released from prison, and had made “insults” against the court and other parties, and was continually talking across and interrupting the judge.

When Burke refused to cease the judge directed that he be removed from the court.


When prison officers were in the process of removing the teacher from the courtroom a scuffle ensued. Burke’s brother Dr Issac Burke was also physically removed from the courtroom by gardaí.

Following Burke’s removal, Mr Justice Sanfey said that he had “no option” other than send Burke back to prison and said that the teacher was “behaving in a way” to keep himself in prison.

Burke was brought before the court this morning, when his ongoing refusal to comply with an injunction made last year was reviewed by the judge. The judge had previously described the teacher’s continued imprisonment as “a profoundly unsatisfactory situation”.

When the matter was before the court in late February the judge, who stressed that court orders must be obeyed, had asked the school’s lawyers to make submissions on possible alternatives to Burke’s incarceration, including the sequestration of the teacher’s assets.

The court also noted that during his time behind bars, Burke continued to be paid his salary pending his appeal against the school’s decision to dismiss him.

The court also said Burke was being imprisoned at a cost to the tax payer, has not paid any of the fines imposed on him by the court last year, nor has he paid any of the costs orders made against him by the courts in favour of the school.

Throughout the process Burke, who has spent almost a year behind bars, has claimed that he has been imprisoned because he was being punished for his religious belief.

He has also claimed that his incarceration is also due to his opposition to “transgendarism” and his refusal to comply with a direction from the school in 2022 to address a student by a different pronoun.

“Severe disruption”

Enoch Burke was committed to Mountjoy after the school’s board asked the court to jail the teacher over his deliberate failure to comply with a permanent injunction restraining him from attending at the school granted by the court in July.

The board claimed that Burke had attended at Wilson’s Hospital campus every day when the current school year commenced last August.

His presence at the school had caused “severe disruption for staff and students” the board claimed.

In September, the Court found that Burke had “flagrantly breached” the July orders and committed him to prison “indefinitely”, until he purges his contempt.

Last December, when his contempt was last up for review, Burke also declined to purge his contempt and agree to comply with an order to stay away from the school.

When the matter was reviewed last month Burke again refused to purge his contempt and was returned to Mountjoy.

During his first stint behind bars the Evangelical Christian spent over 100 days in Mountjoy between September and December 2022.

Following his suspension from his position at the school in August 2022, Burke was sued by the school over his failure to comply with a court order requiring him to stay away from the school.

He was released in December 2022 without purging his contempt.

He again started attending at the school after the holidays, and the High Court imposed a daily fine of €700 on Burke.

The teacher denies the claims against and says that his constitutional rights were breached by the school’s direction that he refers to a student by a different gender.

Aodhan O Faolain