final day | 

Enoch Burke claims judge laughed, mocked and ridiculed him in email read out in court

In response, the judge said he emphatically rejected Mr Burke’s complaints

Enoch Burke© Collins Courts


Enoch Burke has alleged a judge laughed, mocked and ridiculed him after he sought to raise concerns over the disclosure of documents to him by Wilson’s Hospital School.

The sacked schoolteacher’s complaints that he was “unjustly barred” from the court and “denied a fair hearing” were outlined in an email to a High Court registrar, read out in court today by Mr Justice Alexander Owens.

In response, the judge said he emphatically rejected Mr Burke’s complaints and said the issues raised regarding disclosure had been addressed to his satisfaction by a lawyer for the school.

He also described Mr Burke’s conduct in court earlier this week as “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

Mr Burke was excluded from the courtroom on Tuesday after being found in contempt in the face of the court after refusing to accept a ruling by Mr Justice Owens. The judge had rejected his arguments on the discovery issue as “flimsy”.

The teacher had repeatedly raised his voice, talked over the judge and counsel for the school and refused to sit down when directed to do so.

Since then the trial of the action against him by the school and his counterclaim have been proceeding in his absence. It is expected to conclude today.

The court has to decide whether the school correctly invoked a disciplinary process against Mr Burke and if it was correct to suspend him following incidents in which he publicly voiced opposition to a request that teachers address a transgender student by a new name and by “they/them” pronouns.

The teacher, who is an evangelical Christian, objected on religious grounds and alleges his suspension and subsequent dismissal was unlawful.

Mr Burke has been told by the judge he can return to the trial if he gives an undertaking to abide by rulings of the court.

However, although he and his sister Ammi were seen in the vicinity of the Four Courts today, he has not tried to re-enter the trial, which is now in its fourth and final day.

The judge had been hearing closing arguments from Mark Connaughton SC for the Co Westmeath school’s board of management when the court was informed an email had been received from Mr Burke.

In the correspondence, Mr Burke again outlined claims that an email between the school’s former principal Niamh McShane and the chair of its board of management, John Rogers, contained in discovery documents, had been “tampered” with.

He also claimed minutes of various board meetings had not been disclosed and that WhatsApp messages between Ms McShane and Mr Rogers were only partially discovered as they did not include attachments or screenshots.

“When I raised these issues at the beginning of the hearing on Tuesday I was repeatedly laughed at, mocked and ridiculed by the judge who refused to make any orders in relation to the matter,” he wrote.

“He [the judge] stated: ‘I hold all the cards in relation to this and you hold none of them’.

“He said my arguments were flimsy and that there was no evidence the school had been suppressing documents.”

The email continued: “I was subsequently barred by the judge from participating further in the hearing until I agreed to accept his rulings, inter alia that the issues I had raised were flimsy and stupid and a waste of time.

“This was enforced by the gardaí who refused to let me re-enter the courtroom when proceedings resumed at 2pm.”

Mr Burke claimed that solicitors for the board had purported to address the issues he had raised in a subsequent email to him. “However, almost all the issues remain unchanged,” he claimed.

“Despite my wholehearted desire to see this case progress, it is unconscionable that the trial has been allowed to proceed in these circumstances,” he said.

Later in the email, he said: “In order to participate in this hearing, the judge has made it a condition that I accept the issues I have raised are flimsy and stupid and a waste of time.

“It is not possible for me to accept this. It is unacceptable the judge would proceed with the trial in the full knowledge of the alteration and suppression of documentation by the board of management. I am gravely concerned by the actions of the judge in this matter.

“I have unjustly barred from the trial and have been denied a fair hearing in the matter.”

Mr Justice Owens said he wished to “reject emphatically all of the points” made by Mr Burke.

“I repeat again that Mr Burke’s conduct on Monday was completely and utterly unacceptable.

“Sometimes it is necessary to be direct with people who deal with one unfairly. I thought I was being dealt with unfairly by Mr Burke. It is necessary to call a spade a spade.”

Mr Justice Owens said it was occasionally necessary for a judge to “not to be too polite about these things” and to “drive home the message by whatever means are appropriate”.

He said the discovery issues had been “addressed to my satisfaction” by Alex White SC, counsel for the board of management.

The judge said if Mr Burke had a legitimate concern, he was at liberty to come into court at any stage, provided he first indicate he is prepared to abide by the rulings of the court.

The hearing continues.

Today's Headlines

More Courts

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos