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Enoch Burke outside the High Court Dublin. Leah Farrell via
High Court

High Court says Enoch Burke's suspension was lawful and orders him to pay €15,000 in damages

It was found that the school was correct to suspend Burke in 2022 pending the outcome of a disciplinary proceedings against him.

THE HIGH COURT has ruled that teacher Enoch Burke was lawfully suspended from his post at Wilson’s Hospital School.

The school argued that it was correct in suspending Burke from his teaching position in August 2022 pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him.

Burke, who denies any wrongdoing, took a counter-action against the disciplinary process, as well as his suspension and subsequent dismissal.

In his judgment today, Mr Justice Alexander Owens ordered Burke to pay the school board €15,000 in damages for trespassing. The school is also entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting Burke from attending at its premises.

In addition, he must pay the daily €700 fine that was imposed by the High Court on Burke several months ago for his ongoing breach of earlier orders requiring him to stay away from the school’s premises in Multyfarnham in Co Westmeath.

The accumulative sum of the fines is understood to be in the tens of thousands of euro.

The judge found that the school’s decision to suspend the teacher was “rational and reasonable”, after Burke had voiced his strong objections to an alleged request by the school to refer to a student, who was transitioning the time, by a different name and pronouns.

The teacher claimed that such a direction was a breach of his rights, and his religious beliefs.

The court heard evidence of Burke’s behaviour at a school event in June of last year and at subsequent meetings held in August 2022 where his conduct had been discussed.

The school’s former principal Niamh McShane had acted in good faith when compiling a report that led to the disciplinary process against Burke, the judge said.

She was “fully within her rights to express her views” about Burke’s conduct at the school event and at staff meetings over the request regarding the student.

There were serious concerns expressed about how Burke might act towards the student in question as well as the student body, and he had a case to answer to the school’s board, the judge said.

Burke had been given an opportunity to address the claim that he had engaged in gross misconduct, but did not avail of it, and was aware of the school’s serious concerns about his future behaviour in the school, the judge said.

He was not present in the court for most of the hearing following his exclusion from the courtroom by the judge.

The judge also rejected claims that the process was procedurally flawed, and unlawful.

This resulted in Burke not being able to make his submissions, call his own witnesses, nor cross examine witnesses called by the school.

Burke was told that if he gave an undertaking not to disrupt the proceedings any further, he would have been allowed in to participate in the hearing.

However, no such undertaking was offered by the teacher who represented himself in the procceedings.

The judge said that arising out of Burke’s exclusion from the hearing, due to his disruptive behaviour, the court was dismissing his counterclaim.

In March, the High Court ruled that Burke must pay legal fees incurred by Wilson’s Hospital school for contempt proceedings brought against him for re-attending at the school premises.

Today, Judge Owens said that the court’s “provisional view” was that Burke should also cover the rest of the school board’s legal fees.

Aodhan O Faolain