Heated | 

Chaotic scenes during Enoch Burke court application as relatives shout at judge

Heated comments were directed at Mr Justice Conor Dignam by the teacher’s sister, solicitor Ammi Burke, and mother Martina

Enoch Burke (centre, back) arriving to the High Court with his parents (front), Sean and Martina Burke. Photo: Collins Courts

Enoch Burke arriving at the High Court this morning.

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

There were chaotic scenes in court as relatives of Enoch Burke shouted at a judge today during his application for an injunction restraining a school from holding disciplinary proceedings or sacking him.

Heated comments were directed at Mr Justice Conor Dignam by the teacher’s sister, solicitor Ammi Burke, and mother Martina after the judge announced shortly after 3.50pm that he would have to adjourn for the day at 4pm, the normal time the court rises.

Ammi Burke demanded that the judge respond to a claim made by her brother that the chairman of Wilson’s Hospital School had lied under oath, while Martina Burke accused the judge of “planning to run out the door”.

Neither had a right of audience to address the court.

The fractious scenes were the latest in a series of interventions which have been made during court hearings by members of Mr Burke’s family since the teacher’s suspension last August and subsequent defiance of a temporary injunction restraining him from attending the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Enoch Burke arriving at the High Court this morning.

On a previous occasion last October both Mr Burke and his mother had to be removed from the Court of Appeal over comments made to a judge.

The latest incident came as the suspended teacher was making an application to the High Court for orders aimed at stopping the school from holding a disciplinary meeting on January 19 or any other date or from dismissing him.

In submissions to the judge, Mr Burke claimed John Rogers, the chairman of the school’s board of management, had “told an outright lie” in an affidavit.

The issue is central to claims by Mr Burke that he was denied fair procedures by the school when it suspended him following incidents where he publicly questioned a request from former principal Niamh McShane that a transgender student be referred to as “they” rather than “he”.

Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, refused to comply with the request on religious grounds.

After Mr Burke made the lie claim, Mr Justice Dignam said he would need to have Mr Rogers’ affidavit opened to the court, either by Mr Burke or counsel for the school.

Following a short delay, during which Mr Burke consulted with Ammi Burke and his brother Isaac, the teacher indicated he would read it out

But as he was about to begin, Mr Justice Dignam pointed out there were only a few minutes left and asked when both sides would be in a position to resume.

The teacher said he was just after bringing to the attention of the court “a lie on which the whole case hangs”.

“You are now telling me you have to go in seven minutes,” he said, before accusing the judge of “essentially buying yourself time to respond”.

Mr Justice Dignam said this was “an outrageous suggestion”.

The judge said he could not make any finding on what Mr Burke had alleged while the case was ongoing and pointed out that Wilson’s Hospital was entitled to fair procedures by having Mr Rogers’ affidavit opened to the court.

At this point, Ammi Burke interjected and began shouting at the judge.

She claimed it was “a little bit rich to say the other side deserve fair procedures” and that it was “entirely preposterous” for the judge to announce he “had to leave in seven minutes’ time”.

At this point Martina Burke began shouting too. “You are planning to run out the door now,” she shouted.

The interruptions continued for several minutes, with Martina Burke repeatedly shouting: “Is it OK to lie under oath?” and “What are the consequences of lying under oath?”.

The judge eventually adjourned the hearing until tomorrow morning.

Mr Burke’s allegation about Mr Rogers relates to an averment in an affidavit sworn by the school chairman this week.

In the affidavit, Mr Rogers said that a report by Ms McShane, which formed the basis for Mr Burke’s suspension, was read out but not discussed at a meeting of the board on August 15 last year. Mr Burke was suspended a week later.

Mr Burke claims the averment is contradicted by correspondence in which he said Mr Roger twice said the report was discussed at the meeting.

The teacher spent 108 days in jail for contempt of court last year after refusing to abide by the suspension and a subsequent temporary court order restraining him from attending the school.

Despite not purging his contempt, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore finally ordered his release from Mountjoy Prison on December 21 after finding the teacher was “exploiting his imprisonment for his own ends”.

Despite being warned by the judge that he could face imprisonment again or the sequestration of his assets if he breached court orders again, Mr Burke showed up at the school last Thursday and again on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

An application from the school for the sequestration of assets is to be heard next week.

At today’s hearing, Mr Burke advanced seven grounds on which he believes an injunction should be granted restraining the disciplinary process from going ahead.

The teacher claimed that the actions of the school in suspending him were in breach of various articles of the constitution, including those relating to freedom of conscience and free profession and practice of religion.

He claimed an email from Ms McShane was a “demand” and “coercive”.

A second ground was that no serious misconduct had taken place warranting a “stage four” disciplinary process.

He claimed incidents cited in a report by then principal Niamh McShane, in which he interrupted a church service and also questioned her at a subsequent dinner, did not amount to misconduct, let alone serious misconduct.

A third ground was that there had been no consideration of his “unblemished employment record and excellent service at the school”.

Mr Burke read to the court various letters and messages from students about his performance as a teacher and listed achievements by his pupils in debating and essay competitions.

A fourth ground was that Ms McShane’s report contained findings and conclusions he was not given an opportunity to respond to, denying him fair procedures and natural justice.

A fifth ground was that the report did not make findings of fact fairly.

A sixth ground was that the report was read at a board meeting on August 15, 2022, where he was not present, again depriving him of natural justice and fair procedures.

He claimed the meeting should not have taken place and that procedures demanded that he should have been given an opportunity to respond to the report in writing before any consideration of it by the board.

The final ground advanced was an accusation that the outcome of the disciplinary process was predetermined.

Counsel for the school will respond tomorrow.

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