Enoch Burke begs judge to reconsider €700-a-day fine and indicates he will not pay
Court informed of inaccuracies in affidavits filed by school chairman
Enoch Burke has indicated he will not purge his contempt or pay the €700-a-day fine the High Court has imposed on him for defying a court order.
The schoolteacher begged Mr Justice Brian O’Moore to reconsider the imposition of the fine, claiming he was being penalised for his opposition on religious grounds to transgenderism .
The judge has repeatedly stated that penalties imposed on Mr Burke, first imprisonment and now fines, were due to his defiance of court orders which simply require him to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School.
The orders did not impinge on his religious beliefs in any way, the judge has said.
The fine kicked in from 2pm today after Mr Burke missed a deadline set by the judge for the purging of his contempt.
Instead of coming to the High Court, Mr Burke again turned up at the school near Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath this morning.
Leaving the school grounds shortly after 3.30pm, Mr Burke said: ““I would really just say to Judge Brian O’Moore, I would beg him to reconsider his ruling.”
He said his religious views were protected by the Constitution and that judges were “not above the law”.
Asked if he would pay the fine, Mr Burke said: “I don’t believe I should pay it. I am putting it in the nicest possible way.
“A fine is a punishment in which somebody is ordered to pay a sum of money for something they have done that is illegal or a rule they have broken.
“And I have not done anything illegal. I have not broken any rules. But I can tell you who has broken the rules.
“We are in a very serious place in this country if judges in one of the highest courts in the land can pass laws fining people for the expression of their religious belief."
The teacher arrived at the school today at 8.44am in an SUV driven by his father Seán, the fourth time he has done so since being dismissed last Friday.
He was again denied access to the school buildings and spent the day in the courtyard outside.
The history and German teacher was suspended after clashing with management over a request last May from then principal Niamh McShane that teacher’s comply with a transgender child’s wishes to be called by a new name and by their preferred pronouns.
But 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 at a church service and following a school dinner.
While Mr Burke was at the school today, lawyers for the board of management were making an application to the High Court.
Alex White SC said it had been discovered yesterday evening that there were inaccuracies in affidavits sworn by the chairman of the school’s board of management, John Rogers, and a report submitted to the board by Ms McShane.
These related to a meeting with the transgender child.
Mr White 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 next Tuesday but said Mr Burke could ask for it come back before the court sooner.
The judge said it was “obviously appropriate” that any inaccuracies be corrected and noted that while counsel did not believe anything hinged on the issue, Mr Burke “may have a different view”.
The report by Ms McShane was the catalyst for Mr Burke’s suspension on full pay last August.
Mr Burke has previously accused Mr Rogers of lying in an affidavit which stated the report was read but not discussed at a board meeting last August. Mr Rogers denies misleading the court.
Earlier this month the school applied for either the sequestration of Mr Burke’s assets or the issuing of a fine for his ongoing contempt.
In a ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said the appropriate measure to deal with Mr Burke’s contempt of court was to impose a daily fine.
The judge said the fine amounted to “just shy” of €5,000-a-week.
“This figure should persuade Mr Burke to end his utterly pointless attendance at a school which does not want him on its property,” said Mr Justice O’Moore.
“If the daily fine that is now being imposed on Mr Burke does not have the desired effect, it can always be increased.”
On Thursday, Mr Burke criticised the ruling, saying: “We are at a time in this country where people are at their wit’s end with the cost of everything, the cost of fuel, the cost of putting bread on the table, putting clothes on children’s backs, grocery bills gone up.
“And Brian O’Moore, a judge of the High Court, has sat down and said to himself that not only will you have to pay for those things but you have to pay for your religious beliefs.
“He will make you a pauper for the profession of your religious belief.”
Mr Justice O’Moore has previously said the court order restraining Mr Burke from attending the school does not in any way impinge on Mr Burke’s religious beliefs.
The judge said Mr Burke had given a “quite surreal” explanation for his continued attendance at the school – that he was there “to work”.
“He was not provided with access to a classroom, was obviously not rostered to give any lessons, and was asked to leave by the school authorities,” the judge said.
“It simply cannot be the case that Mr Burke truly expected that he would be permitted to carry out any duties.”
Mr Burke previously spent 108 days in prison for contempt of court last year.
He was jailed for refusing to comply with court orders restraining him from attending at or attempting to teach pupils at the Church of Ireland diocesan school.
The school obtained the orders last September after Mr Burke kept turning up for work despite being suspended on full pay.
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