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Jailed teacher Enoch Burke to seek release from Dublin prison today

Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, was jailed nine days ago after breaching an injunction restraining him from attending, or attempting to teach pupils, at the Church of Ireland diocesan boarding school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Enoch Burke being brought into the Bridewell garda station last week. Picture by Collins Courts

Teacher Enoch Burke

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

Enoch Burke will seek to be released from prison today when his challenge to a school’s decision to suspend him from work returns to the High Court.

The teacher is set to argue there is no lawful basis to a decision by Wilson’s Hospital School to place him on administrative leave.

Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, was jailed nine days ago after breaching an injunction restraining him from attending, or attempting to teach pupils, at the Church of Ireland diocesan boarding school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Despite being suspended on August 24 following incidents in which he publicly voiced opposition to transgenderism, he continued to turn up at the workplace.

He has claimed in court that due to his religious beliefs he could not comply with a request from the school’s principal last May to address a transgender pupil by a different name and to use the pronoun “they” instead of “he”.

The teacher is due to be brought to the court from Mountjoy Prison in time for a hearing at 2pm today where a judge will be asked to consider granting an injunction restraining the school from continuing his suspension.

If his application is successful, it would likely lead to his release from jail without having to purge his contempt of court.

“The effect would be to vacate the order, effectively freeing me from Mountjoy. I would be back in the classroom tomorrow,” Mr Burke told the court on Monday.

Teacher Enoch Burke

The matter will be taken up today by a duty judge as the High Court is still in the middle of its ‘long vacation’.

The judge will either agree to hear the injunction application or set a date for the hearing of the application.

Four different duty judges have heard aspects of the matter since the school’s board of management secured a temporary injunction against Mr Burke on August 31, and it is expected a fifth judge will enter the fray today.

Mr Burke filed a counterclaim against the school on Monday.

In the action, he had also been seeking injunctions restraining the board of management from holding a disciplinary meeting in Mullingar, Co Westmeath today and from dismissing him.

Mr Burke has claimed the disciplinary process breaches his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience, expression and religious belief.

However, Mr Justice Conor Dignam ruled on Monday that only his application for an injunction against his suspension would be heard.

He decided the other injunctions sought in the counterclaim did not need to be ruled upon at this stage after a lawyer for the board of management informed the court the disciplinary meeting had been adjourned indefinitely and that Mr Burke would be given three day’s notice if it was to be rescheduled.

In his counterclaim, Mr Burke alleges his suspension was “unreasonable, unjust, unfair and unlawful” and in breach of Department of Education rules.

He also claims a report by the school’s then principal Niamh McShane, which was considered by the board of management before it suspended him, contained highly prejudicial conclusions.

In the report, Ms McShane voiced “serious concerns” about how Mr Burke might act in future.

“These concerns extend to the student concerned and the entire student body,” she said.

A number of incidents were outlined in the report.

These included Mr Burke’s interruption of a chapel service last June marking the school’s 260th anniversary.

As the final blessing was being made, he stood up and spoke for two or three minutes, objecting to Ms McShane’s request to staff.

According to an affidavit filed by chair of the board, John Rogers, a dinner took place afterwards. It is claimed that after the meal Mr Burke approached Ms McShane and, in a “heated” manner, asked her to withdraw the request.

Mr Burke, it was claimed, followed her and continued to question her loudly, only stopping when other people stood in between them.

The teacher has sought to downplay both incidents and denies pursuing Ms McShane in a heated manner.


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