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Enoch Burke, file photo Alamy Stock Photo
High Court

Deputy principal says he was surprised by Enoch Burke's opposition to school request

John Galligan told the High Court that Burke had been a good teacher prior to May 2022.

ENOCH BURKE WAS dismissed from his teaching position at Wilson’s Hospital School because he had intimidated and harassed a colleague and had breached the confidence of a student in the school who wished to transition, the High Court has heard.

On the third day of the action brought by the school arising out of his suspension, the court heard evidence from teacher Freda Malone, a staff representative on Wilson’s Hospital board of management and the school’s Deputy Principal John Galligan about Burke’s behaviour at various events and meetings last year.

They both said that Burke’s behaviour had amounted to gross misconduct that merited the decision to suspend and dismiss him.

In her evidence to the court, Malone said that the school’s board decided in January to dismiss the teacher, following a fraught and difficult meeting attended by Burke and members of his family.

The school guidance counsellor, who was elected the acting chairperson of the board for the disciplinary hearing relating to allegations of gross misconduct against the Co Mayo teacher, said Burke and his brother Isaac, sister Ammi and mother Martina had shouted and chanted throughout that hearing.

In reply to Alex White SC for the school, she said the Burkes had objected to the presence of the school’s lawyers and a stenographer at the meeting.

Counsel said that while the events of that January meeting are not something the court has to decide on, it has been raised in evidence to give the court a full picture of the matter.

In reply to the judge, she said the Burkes’ chants were about there allegedly being no chair at the meeting. John Rogers – the chairman of the board – was absent on the date in question due to illness.

Enoch Burke, she said, had repeatedly shouted over her and said, “Freda who are these people.”

She said that Enoch’s brother Isaac was “conducting” the chanting and keeping them “in time”.

She also said the board members were able to hear former principal Niamh McShane deliver her report into allegations about Burke’s misconduct, despite the shouting.

She rejected Mr Burke’s contentions, made in a witness statement, that he could not hear what was being said by Ms McShane during that meeting, adding that he was given an opportunity to make his case.

She said that during the board’s deliberations a decision was made to dismiss Mr Burke, which he has since appealed.

She said the board found that he had “intimidated and harassed” McShane and had “breached the confidence” in a very public way of a student at two school events in June 2022.

Malone added that the school had health and safety concerns about the student’s welfare and feared that Mr Burke may repeat the type of public protests he had engaged in. 

She had been present at a school dinner last June, which took place after a religious service in the school where Burke interjected and said that McShane should withdraw her “demand” that staff at the school refer to the student by their preferred name and pronoun.

She described Burke’s behaviour that night as being “upsetting”.

She said she observed Burke “lean over and talk over” McShane when demanding that she withdraw her instruction in relation to the student.  

Malone said that at one point of that function she got between Burke and McShane.

She said the situation was “very uncomfortable”,” and asked him, “What are you doing to Niamh?”

She said Burke replied that he was not doing anything wrong and, “You have to be careful what you say to me.”

Malone said that in response she told Burke that “you have to be careful what you say to me”.

She added that after McShane was escorted home, other guests at the event “formed a ring” around the then-principal’s house.

Deputy Principal 

As the deputy principal of Wilson’s Hospital School John Galligan gave evidence earlier, Mr Justice Alex Owens read out minutes from a board meeting where a decision was made to place Burke on administrative leave.

He said he was doing this due to the circumstances of no defence team being present, so that he could establish the facts of the case.

In his evidence, Galligan described how in meetings last year Burke would not give the school any assurances about how he would behave towards a student who wished to transition. 

Galligan also said Burke had “erupted” when expressing his strong objections about the school’s direction in relation to the student at a staff meeting shortly afterwards.   

In reply to questions from the school’s counsel Mark Connaughton SC, Galligan, who joined Wilson’s Hospital in 2019 said that prior to May 2022, Burke was a good teacher and that “his forte” had been extracurricular debating.

He became aware of Burke’s opposition to the school’s request in relation to a student in May. This surprised him as Burke had not raised any issues regarding a similar request made by the school in relation to another student some months earlier. 

He said that like his then colleague, former school principal Niamh McShane, he had hoped that a compromise could be reached with Mr Burke over this issue. They had similarly compromised over his objections to wearing a face mask during the Covid-19 pandemic after he agreed to wear a visor.

Galligan said he was not present at the school service and dinner in June 2022 where Burke made public comments about the school’s request.

However, he was present at subsequent meetings of the school’s board of management following that incident.

Board of management meetings

He said that at an initial meeting in August, the board was made aware of a report by  McShane that contained a complaint about Burke’s behaviour at the June events, but added that the contents of the report were not discussed nor fully aired at that meeting.

He said that at a subsequent board meeting which Burke was invited to attend was arranged for 22 August. 

The purpose of that meeting, Mr Galligan said, was “to get Burke’s side of the story” and for him to give reasons why he should not be placed on administrative leave. 

Galligan said Burke had attended the meeting with his sister Ammi, and that it was adjourned for about 10 or 15 minutes by Rogers because it was “going nowhere”.

“They were still talking, they were still giving out and going on and on and on,” he said.

Following the adjournment of that meeting, he said Mr Burke and his sister Ammi, who also attended, walked out and did not return to the meeting following an adjournment.

He said that the board of management then had a 40-minute discussion on what action to take, before a unanimous decision was made to place Mr Burke on paid administrative leave as the misconduct allegation was dealt with.

Concerns about next steps

Galligan said the decision was made based on past experiences and on concerns for children as the next academic year approached, saying there were concerns “about what the next protest might be and the form that would take”.

“We call it a health and safety concern, children witnessing interruption, disruption, protest,” he said.

However, he said that in late August Mr Burke, in breach of the terms of his suspension, attended at the school.

Galligan, who was acting school principal at the time, said he contacted the school board’s chairman John Rogers, and they approached Burke and told him he had to leave the school premises.

He said that that despite their requests Burke refused to do and told them that he was there to work and attend meetings.

Arising out of Mr Burke’s refusal to stay away from the school premises, High Court injunction proceedings were brought, which ultimately resulted in Mr Burke being jailed for contempt of court. 

In its action, the school seeks various orders, including a permanent order directing  Burke to stay away from the school.

In January, the school’s board dismissed Mr Burke from his teaching position. That decision is currently under appeal.


Burke, who denies any wrongdoing, has brought a counterclaim claiming that the disciplinary proceedings brought against him after he voiced his objections to a direction by the school to refer to a student at the school by a different name and pronoun, are unlawful and in breach of his rights.

The Evangelical Christian was excluded from the courtroom by the presiding judge on the opening day of the hearing over his failure to cease interrupting the case.

He was told he could return and participate if he gave an undertaking to comply with the court’s rules and not interrupt the matter.

He was also given the option of observing the proceedings via a video link.

On Thursday morning, Mr Justice Owens addressed the online function to view court proceedings and said: “Mr Burke, if you’re listening, you’re more than welcome to attend online.”

He said that he could attend in person but that “welcome” was only extended if he committed to obeying the rulings of the court.

He said he was “long enough in the business” to know there could be disagreements in court but that there must be discipline, which, the judge added: “I’m sure you’ll appreciate.” 

The case continues.

With reporting by PA 

Aodhan O Faolain