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Enoch Burke is to remain in jail over the Christmas period after refusing to obey a court order.
Enoch Burke

Enoch Burke in jail for Christmas as he refuses to obey court order

Enoch Burke is set to remain in prison over the festive period as he refuses to obey a court order to stay away from the secondary school he taught at.

JAILED TEACHER ENOCH Burke will remain behind bars for the festive period after he again refused to obey a court order to stay away and not try to teach at the secondary school he is employed at.

Despite refusing to purge his contempt Mr Burke, via a video link from Mountjoy, pleaded with Mr Justice Conor Dignam on Tuesday morning to release him from custody, telling the court that he was “not a thief, a murderer or a drug dealer” and was behind bars because of his religious objections to “transgendarism”.   

The Judge said that was not prepared to release Mr Burke, given that the teacher at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath is not prepared to purge his contempt and comply with what the judge said is “a valid court order.” 

Despite his refusal to comply with the order Mr Burke can secure his release at any point by coming before the court and purging his contempt.

The judge’s ruling promoted an angry response from Mr Burke’s parents Sean and Martina Burke, who were present in court with two of their other children, strongly criticised the judge and the judiciary over the jailing of their son.  

Sean Burke said the court’s refusal to release his son from prison was “unbelievable,” adding that son was not a criminal. 

He said that he had brought his son up to have strong Christian values, and the objections to people being transgender is in the Bible, “from the book of Genesis to Revelations” Mr Burke Snr added. 

Enoch Burke’s mother Mrs Martina Burke said the judiciary will face judgement from “a higher power” and “God Almighty” in relation to their decisions regarding her son.

She said that the case was “all about Transgendarism” and her son’s constitutional right to freely express his religious beliefs, which it has been claim have been breached. 

She said that a child of primary school age knew what the case was all about.

“Shame upon you” Mrs Burke also told the court.

After Mr Burke’s parents had concluded their addresses to the court Mr Justice Dignam said that he was “not going to enter into a debate” with the Burkes about the court’s ruling and rose from the bench. 

In refusing to purge his contempt Mr Burke repeated what he has previously told the court that by agreeing to comply with the order would amount to an acceptance of “transgenderism”. 

He said he was not prepared to do this as it would be in breach of his Christian beliefs, and his duty to God.  

He added that he had never been in trouble with the law, and he pleaded with the court to use its discretion to “free me for Christmas,”

Mr Burke said as the time of the year when the birth of Christ is celebrated by most of the world, he should be released adding that “I am in prison for my religious beliefs.”

In his submissions Mr Burke also criticised a decision not to allow him to appear before the court in person.

An order directing the prison authorities to produce him before the Court in person on Tuesday, he said, had been refused and he had been allowed address the court via the video link.

He said that this denied him the chance to speak with his legal advisor, his sister Ammi Burke, and had “inconvenienced” both him and the prison services.

He demanded to know why he had not been allowed attend in person and had asked why the matter was not being dealt with by Mr Justice O’Moore who has been dealing with the main dispute between Mr Burke and Wilson’s hospital.

Mr Justice Dignam said that while Mr Burke had advanced his arguments in a respectful and eloquent manner.

Mr Justice Dignam said there was nothing unusual with a different judge hearing the review matter in relation to the contempt and said that he could not enter into a discussion as to why another judge had refused to grant Mr Burke a production order for Tuesday’s hearing.

Mr Burke has been incarcerated at Mountjoy since September over his refusal to comply with High Court injunction to stay away from and not teach at the Co Westmeath school.

He claims the row centres around his objection to “transgendarism”, and to describe a student at the school who wishes to transition as a ‘they’ rather than a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. 

The school brought high court proceedings against Mr Burke over his alleged failure to comply with the terms of his suspension on full pay from the school.

The school, represented by Rosemary Mallon Bl, obtained the order committing Mr Burke, who had been suspended pending the hearing of a disciplinary hearing into allegations of misconduct against him, to prison over his failure to comply with the terms of an injunction requiring him to stay away from the school until the disciplinary process has been completed. 

Mr Burke, a History and German teacher, was suspended on full pay late last August pending an investigation into alleged misconduct.
The school claims that his refusal to comply with the injunction was disruptive to the school’s students.
In a counterclaim Mr Burke says he should never have been the subject of disciplinary process after he expressed his objections to the school’s direction to its staff regarding how to address a student who wishes to transition from male to female, seeks various orders and declarations against the school.

Mr Burke’s appeal against the injunctions which resulted in contempt of court proceedings, and his eventual incarceration for failing to abide by an order obtained by the school are due to be heard in February.

The full hearing of the action brought against him by the school remains pending before the High Court.