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Enoch Burke continues to attend school despite order and is confined to sectioned off corridor

The principal had to set up a workstation on the corridor to “keep an eye” on Mr Burke

Enoch Burke (centre, back) with his parents (front), Sean and Martina Burke. Photo: Collins Courts

Enoch Burke

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

The High Court has reserved judgment on an application for the sequestration of the assets or the fining of suspended teacher Enoch Burke over his continued defiance of a court order restraining him from attending his school premises.

Mr Justice O’Moore said he would give his ruling by the end of next week following a hearing that was marked by testy exchanges between Mr Burke and the judge.

At one point, Mr Burke told Mr Justice O’Moore he would appreciate it if the judge would look at him.

The teacher also refused to answer questions from the judge about his salary or income from grinds and whether he had an objection on procedural grounds to the suggestion he could be fined.

Wilson’s Hospital School did not seek the fining of the teacher in its notice of motion, but the option was floated by its counsel Rosemary Mallon during a hearing today.

Mr Burke, who represented himself, said the court did not have the power to order the sequestration of his assets as to do so would be repugnant to constitutional protections to the expression of religious beliefs.

The history and German teacher, who is an evangelical Christian, has been suspended since last August after clashing with school management over a request from then principal Niamh McShane that staff address a transgender student by a new name and that “they/their” pronouns be used.

However, Mr Burke continued to turn up for work, even after the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, secured a court order restraining him from doing so.

He went on to spend 108 days in prison for contempt of court but was released just before Christmas despite not purging his contempt.

Enoch Burke

Ms Mallon told the court today that Mr Burke had resumed attending the school, in defiance of his suspension and a court order, on January 5, when it reopened following the Christmas holidays.

He continued to attend in subsequent days, the court heard.

Ms Mallon said he was asked to leave a number of times but refused.

The court heard Mr Burke was confined to a corridor which had to be sectioned off.

The principal had to set up a workstation on the corridor to “keep an eye” on Mr Burke.

Ms Mallon said the school did not want to have Mr Burke committed to prison again in circumstances where is wants to proceed with a disciplinary meeting on January 19. She said his incarceration could delay this.

The barrister said the “criminal burden” required for the granting of an order of sequestration had been reached. Mr Burke’s actions had been wilful as he was knowingly breaching the order.

Sequestration is an enforcement process available against property owned by a person who is in contempt of court.

If the school is successful, it would hold possession of Mr Burke’s assets until the court orders what is to be done with them. T

he process is designed to compel compliance with a court order.

Although Mr Burke refused to divulge his earnings, Ms Mallon told the court the school believed he earned in the region of €48,000 before tax.

Mr Burke opposed the application and addressed the court for around 40 minutes.

“This is the first time known in the history of the State that sequestration would be brought against an individual, and it is against an individual for professing their religious belief,” he said.

Mr Burke told the judge he should not be in court today but instead teaching his classes.

He claimed the court had “no jurisdiction, no right to be considering this application”.

The teacher claimed the proceedings were “at odds with a plain reading” of Article 44 of the Constitution which states: “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold his name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion”.

Mr Burke claimed the application did not respect religion.

“It is criminalising it. It is intimidating it,” he said.

The teacher claimed that orders made against him last August and September by Ms Justice Siobhan Stack and Mr Justice Max Barrett were orders the judges had no right to make as, he claimed, they sought to coerce him into doing something that was against his religious beliefs.

“They are null and void and repugnant to the Constitution,” he said.

Mr Burke said he took exception to Mr Justice Barrett’s assertion last year that the case not about transgenderism but rather his refusal to obey the terms of the suspension and a court-ordered injunction.

He went on to claim he had been depicted by Ms Mallon as “some sort of base criminal who goes out of his way to disrespect law and order, to shake his fist at High Court judges”.

Mr Burke said this was “preposterous”.

“I was raised to respect law and order,” he said.

“I have never been in trouble with the law. I am an upright citizen. I keep the law, I always will. But I will not where it is manifestly unconstitutional.”

He also described the suggestion that the court could opt to fine him as “an abomination” and a “base, ignorant and despicable suggestion to be made about a teacher.”

When he had finished his submissions, Mr Justice O’Moore asked if he wanted to say anything about his assets.

The judge said he was obliged to consider all of the evidence before making a decision.

However, Mr Burke said: “I am making no comment on the question”.

He also declined to comment when the judge asked him if he would have an objection on procedural grounds to the suggestion that he be fined.

“I consider the questions offensive,” Mr Burke said.

When the judge said he would given a ruling by Friday of next week, Mr Burke asked him why it would take so long and said he had expected the judge to be able to rule there and then.

Mr Justice O’Moore said parties often expected quick rulings but “very deep issues” had been raised and he needed time to consider them.

Another judge is expected to rule today on a separate application from Mr Burke for orders restraining the disciplinary process from going ahead.


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