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Enoch Burke to be moved into Mountjoy Prison's general population after night in isolation

The teacher will remain incarcerated until he purges his contempt of court and agrees to comply with the injunction secured by the school

Enoch Burke

Senan Molony and Robin

Teacher Enoch Burke is to be transferred into the general population of Mountjoy Prison after spending a night in isolation.

Mr Burke was jailed for contempt of court on Monday after turning up at the school where he worked despite a judge order that he should stay away.

The row stems from his refusal to use the pronoun ‘they’ for a student at the Westmeath school.

The initial stages of his incarceration have been spent in the prison’s C-Base where all newly committed prisoners are placed on their arrival to undergo a standard risk assessment.

As part of measures introduced by the prison service to prevent the spread of Covid-19, all new committals are now also swabbed following their arrival and isolated until testing negative.

It means that Mr Burke will not mix with the general prison population until a negative test for Covid-19 is returned, as is standard practice, if he remains in custody.

Enoch Burke being led into the Four Courts by gardaí. Photo: Collins

Mr Justice Michael Quinn has said the schoolteacher will remain incarcerated until he purges his contempt of court and agrees to comply with the injunction secured by the school.

Mr Burke told the judge earlier this week that he would not abide by a court order restraining him from attending for work while suspended, claiming that to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

The schoolteacher opposed an application from Wilson’s Hospital School for his imprisonment, saying: “I love my school. I am here today because I would not call a boy a girl.”

He told Mr Justice Michael Quinn: “It is not something I will do. It is in violation of my conscience.”

The evangelical Christian was suspended on full pay on August 24 pending the outcome of a disciplinary process after clashing with the school’s principal and board of management over a request that teachers address a transgender student by a new name and use the pronoun “they” instead of “he”.

The teacher's father Seán Burke looks on. Photo: Gerry Mooney

However, he continued to turn up for work, prompting the Church of Ireland diocesan boarding school to seek and secure an interlocutory injunction from Ms Justice Siobhan Stack last Wednesday restraining him from coming to its premises in Multyfarmham, Co Westmeath until September 7.

Despite this order, he continued to come to the school each morning. This led to a further application from the board of management, and Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan ordered on Friday that Mr Burke be arrested and brought before the court.

Meanwhile Senator Rónán Mullen has called on Mr Burke to purge his contempt of court.

The Independent NUI Senator, a former barrister and chair of a Catholic school board of management, said Mr Burke should not defy a judicial ruling in the current situation.

“Citizens must have respect for the rule of law and only in extreme situations should somebody consider defying a court injunction.”

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