Stand-off | 

Dismissed school teacher Enoch Burke and sister Ammi refuse to leave High Court

Mr Burke attended at the court at 11am this morning, accompanied by his sister Ammi, a solicitor

Enoch Burke

Schoolteacher Enoch Burke. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin© Colin Keegan


A stand-off took place in the High Court today when Enoch Burke and his sister Ammi refused to leave a courtroom when a judge indicated he would not be dealing with an issue the dismissed schoolteacher wanted to raise.

A review hearing was due to take place today of daily fines of €700 imposed last month on Mr Burke for his continued defiance of court orders restraining him from attending at Wilson’s Hospital School.

However, the parties were informed earlier this week that the matter was being deferred due to pressure on the court’s list.

Last week Mr Justice Brian O’Moore also deferred a mention hearing in relation to an application from the school’s board of management to amend an affidavit sworn by its chairman, John Rogers.

Despite the deferral of the hearing previously scheduled for today, Mr Burke attended at the court at 11am this morning, accompanied by his sister Ammi, a solicitor.

The schoolteacher asked Mr Justice O’Moore if he could be heard on the affidavit issue.

However, the judge said he would not be dealing with the issue today and that the parties would be emailed later.

Schoolteacher Enoch Burke. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin© Colin Keegan

But Mr Burke was not happy about this and he and his sister refused to leave the court, even after the judge rose and returned to his chambers.

They remained in the courtroom for a period despite attempts by a court garda to usher them out.

As the stand-off continued, lawyers were told by the court registrar that the judge would sit again at 12.30pm.

Despite being hit with a daily fine of €700, Mr Burke has continued to show up each day at the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. By yesterday, the cumulative sum in fines owed amounted to €9,800.

Mr Burke has previously indicated he is unwilling to pay the fines.

Asked last month if he would pay, Mr Burke said: “I don’t believe I should pay it. I am putting it in the nicest possible way.”

The history and German teacher was suspended by the board of management last August after clashing with management over a request from then principal Niamh McShane that teachers comply with a transgender child’s wishes to be called by a new name and by their preferred pronouns.

Mr Burke, who is from a well-known family of evangelical Christians, publicly objected to the request on religious grounds. His suspension followed incidents in which he voiced his opposition to the request at a church service and following a school dinner.

However, he continued to show up for work, even after the school secured court orders restraining him from doing so.

This led to him being jailed for 108 days for contempt of court. He was eventually released just before Christmas despite not purging his contempt.

Mr Burke resumed attending at the school when it reopened on January 5 following the Christmas break.

The schoolteacher was dismissed from his post on January 20, a day after a disciplinary meeting descended into chaos amid objections and shouting by Mr Burke, his sister Ammi, brother Isaac and mother Martina.

The High Court subsequently issued a ruling on an application from the board of management seeking either the sequestration of his assets or the imposition of a fine.

Mr Justice O’Moore opted to impose a daily fine of €700, which he said could be increased if Mr Burke did not comply.

The judge said the fines “should persuade Mr Burke to end his utterly pointless attendance at a school which does not want him on its property”. However, they have not dissuaded him from doing so.

The High Court heard on January 27 that the school wanted to correct inaccuracies in affidavits sworn by Mr Rogers and a report submitted to the board by Ms McShane.

These related to a meeting last May where the transgender child made their request.

Alex White SC, for the board of management, said that contrary to what had been deposed by Mr Rogers, there had only been one parent at the meeting rather than two.

He said it had also been inaccurately stated that the principal was present at the meeting.

In fact, the meeting was taken by a year head and a special needs coordinator. Although the then principal had looked in on the meeting, she was not present for the substantive part of it, Mr White said.

The barrister said he did not believe the inaccuracies had any bearing on orders given by the court restraining Mr Burke from attending at the school, but added that it was clear a corrective affidavit would have to be filed.

Mr Justice Conor Dignam directed the issue be brought to Mr Burke’s attention and that a corrective affidavit be filed. He made the matter returnable to January 31 before Mr Justice O’Moore.

However, the listing was deferred by Mr Justice O’Moore and he has yet to be addressed on the issue.

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