Gardaí physically remove Enoch Burke and family from court after he loses appeal

Six members of the family were in court and all resisted their removal, holding onto benches and each other as gardaí sought to get them out.

Enoch Burke's sister Ammi being removed from the court. Photo credit: RTE News

Enoch Burke being removed from court. Photo credit: RTE News

Enoch Burke. Photo: Frank McGrath

Enoch Burke


Members of Enoch Burke’s family were physically removed from the Court of Appeal today by gardaí after twice loudly interrupting judges delivering a ruling dismissing an appeal in the sacked schoolteacher’s case.

There were fraught scenes as at least 10 gardaí arrived in the court, first physically removing Mr Burke’s sister Ammi and then his brother Simeon after members of the family refused to comply with a direction to leave.

Six members of the family were in court and all resisted their removal, holding onto benches and each other as gardaí sought to get them out.

As Ammi Burke was physically removed, her father Seán shouted: “You have no right to take her out. Shame on you. It is a cover up.”

Seán Burke and his wife Martina were also bundled out of the court after a stand-off.

Then four gardaí were required to drag Enoch Burke out a back door.

As a garda wrestled with him, Mr Burke repeatedly shouted: “Don’t you dare touch me.”

Mr Burke appeared to cut his hand while holding on to a bench.

Enoch Burke being removed from court. Photo credit: RTE News

The last of the family to be removed was Isaac Burke, who was dragged out with his feet trailing on the ground.

Angry comments were aimed at gardaí throughout the unprecedented disturbance, which went on for around 10 minutes.

Members of the family insisted gardaí had no right to remove them from the court.

They were taken from the courtroom after members of the three-judge court had to twice rise from the bench due to interruptions.

Mr Burke was appealing against High Court orders restraining him from turning up at Wilson’s Hospital School.

The president of the court, Mr Justice George Birmingham had only managed to read out one part of the court’s ruling before the hearing descended into chaos.

Sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, he said the court had no hesitation in dismissing an appeal Mr Burke had against an order made by Ms Justice Siobhan Stack last August.

At this point, Ammi Burke, a solicitor stood up and started to interrupt the judge, making comments about her brother’s “constitutional rights”.

She refused to stop talking or sit down when Mr Justice Birmingham instructed her to do so.

Several other members of the Burke family stood and began shouting up at the bench.

The loudest was Mr Burke’s mother Martina, who shouted: “You are bowing before the altar of transgenderism, every single one of you.”

She went on to make loud comments about judicial salaries.

The judges left the bench and remained in their chambers for around five minutes.

When they came back into the courtroom, Mr Justice Birmingham said he would continue reading out the judgement, but that if there were any further interruptions the court would rise again and the judgment would be issued electronically.

He was in the middle of dealing with a second part of the appeal, in relation to an order granted by Mr Justice Max Barrett last September, when he was interrupted by members of the family again.

The judges rose from the bench again and this time they did not come back.

Several gardaí were in the court at the time and more flooded in after the Burkes refused to comply with a request to leave.

Mr Burke had asked the Court of Appeal to set aside a temporary injunction granted by Ms Justice Stack restraining him from attending for work at the Co Westmeath school, and a subsequent decision of Mr Justice Barrett to keep the injunction in place pending a final hearing of the matter.

He claimed the orders were invalid, unconstitutional, had no legal effect and should be set aside.

Mr Burke also “utterly rejected” that there had been “gross misconduct” on his part and claimed his suspension by the school was unlawful.

The school had argued the necessary legal tests had been met for the granting of the orders and had urged the court not to interfere with the decisions to grant them.

Despite the orders, Mr Burke continued to go to its premises in Multyfarnham each school day despite first being suspended and later dismissed from his job there as a teacher of history and German.

He spent 108 days in prison last year for contempt of court orders and is currently being fined €700 for each day he remains in contempt.

His suspension last August came after Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, refused to comply with a request from the then principal to call a transgender pupil by a new name and by their preferred pronouns.

A number of incidents, in which Mr Burke expressed opposition on religious grounds to the request, prompted the school’s board of management to put him on paid administrative leave.

He was sacked by the board of management in January, a decision he is appealing to a tribunal.

During the appeal hearing, the teacher claimed the request, was an unlawful “demand” that he participate in transgenderism, and was in breach of his constitutional rights to the freedom of religious expression.

Transgenderism, he said, was contrary to all major religions, and his own Christian beliefs. He told the court that scriptures state that there is only the male and the female.

But Mr Justice Birmingham said the communication from the principal “fell well short of a demand”.

The judge said he had no hesitation in dismissing the appeal against the order of Ms Justice Stack, as on the evidence presented to her there was a case for an interim injunction.

He did not get to read out the part of the ruling dismissing the appeal against Mr Justice Barrett’s order, but an electronic version of the judgment issued later confirmed this too had been dismissed.

The Court of Appeal decided not to hear appeals against two other High Court decisions, made by Mr Justice Conor Dignam and Ms Justice Eileen Roberts. These included the dismissal of an application brought by Mr Burke aimed at setting aside his suspension.

Before delivering the court’s ruling, Mr Justice Birmingham said a letter was received by the court’s registrar from a firm of solicitors in the midlands.

Although not stated by the judge, it appears the firm that sent the letter is representing the transgender child or their family.

The judge said the letter indicated the desire of the law firm that nothing be said in the course of the judgment that would identify the child.

“There is also a stated concern the judgement should not contain anything that is inaccurate,” said Mr Justice Birmingham.

The judge said the correspondence seemed to be designed to influence the contents of the judgment and, on one view, was an attempt to put evidence before the court through correspondence, which he said could not be done.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court had been careful at all stages not to identify the child.

The hearing of the full cases between the school and Mr Burke remains pending before the High Court, and is expected to be heard later this year.

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