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Enoch Burke leaving the High Court in Dublin at an earlier appearance this year.
High Court

Enoch Burke to remain in Mountjoy after again refusing to stay away from Westmeath school

During the course of a fraught hearing, members of his family were directed by the judge to leave the courtroom for interrupting the court.

ENOCH BURKE WILL remain in Mountjoy Prison after he again refused to give an undertaking to comply with a High Court order to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

Burke, after being asked on several occasions by Mr Justice Mark Sanfey if he was prepared to comply with an order to stay away from the school, said compliance with the order would mean “giving up” of his religious beliefs and and an endorsement of “transgenderism”.

During the course of what was a fraught and at times heated hearing, Burke and members of his family were directed by the judge to leave the courtroom for interrupting the court.

The judge left the bench on several occasions during the hearing.

Burke and his family voiced their strong criticisms of several judges who have considered and ruled on aspects of the ongoing legal battle and lawyers representing the school board.

The media was also criticised by members of the Burke family.

In submissions to the court he said that he was in prison because of decisions made by various judges.

Criticism of judges

He said that lawyers for the school had been involved in covering up evidence relevant to his case, and made strong criticisms about various judges who had heard and made various rulings in his case.

The judges criticised included Mr Justice George Birmingham, Ms Justice Marie Whelan and Mr Justice Brian O’Moore of the Court of Appeal, and Mr Justice Alexander Owens and Mr Justice Max Barrett in the High Court.

He said that he now spent over 200 days in prison with drug dealers and murderers over his refusal to accept a direction from the school to address a student by a different pronoun.

Mr Justice Sanfey told the teacher that the court was only concerned with whether the teacher was prepared to purge his contempt and give an undertaking to stay away from the school, which would secure his release.

The judge also told Burke that he “didn’t like being talked over” as it was “disrespectful to the court.”

Burke, who said he had a right to make submissions to the court, continued with his criticisms of various parties, and asked the court if it was concerned about judges “who should not be” in the positions they held, and questioned their appointments and promotions.

The judge said that Burke may well have issues regarding decisions made by other members of the bench in relation to the dispute.

There were other forums where such concerns could be addressed, the judge said, however today’s review of the teacher’s imprisonment for contempt was not one of them.

School board

Counsel for the school board Rosemary Mallon Bl, who rejected the personal criticisms made by Burke, said that her client was “reluctantly” asking the court to maintain the ‘status quo’ by keeping Burke in prison until he is prepared to abide by the order to stay away from the school.

The judge, who said it was clear that Burke was not prepared to comply with the court’s order, ruled that the teacher remain incarcerated until he is prepared to purge his contempt.

Burke can come to court at any time and give undertakings that will secure his release, the judge added.

The judge said that Burke and members of his family had engaged in an orchestrated campaign designed to disrupt the proceedings before him.

Such behaviour, as well as the flagrant breach of court orders, “wont be tolerated”, the judge added.

The matter was adjourned to a date in February for a further review.

September jailing

Burke was jailed for the second time last September after the school’s board asked the court for orders to jail the teacher over his deliberate failure to comply with a permanent injunction restraining him from attending at the school granted by Mr Justice Owens in July.

The board claimed that Burke had attended at Wilson’s Hospital campus every day since the 2023-24 school year commenced in August.

The school board alleges that Burke’s presence at the school had caused “severe disruption for staff and students”. That claim is denied.

In September, Mr Justice Mark Heslin ruled that Burke had “flagrantly breached” the orders requiring him to stay away from the school and ordered that he be committed to prison “indefinitely,” until he purges his contempt.

Burke, who is separately appealing a decision by the school to dismiss him from his post as a German and History teacher, has argued that he is in prison because of his opposition to ‘Transgendarism,’ and that Mr Justice Owens’ order is invalid.

Burke has also accused the courts of failing to recognise his constitutional rights to religious freedom and that those rights were breached when the school instructed him to refer to a male student by a different pronoun.

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

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.

12 months ago he was released shortly before Christmas by Mr Justice O’Moore, 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.

Burke has also brought a challenge against the three-person panel of persons appointed to hear his appeal against his dismissal from his teaching position.

Judgement is awaited in those separate proceedings against the panel.

Aodhan O Faolain