courtroom battle | 

Judge accuses Enoch Burke and sister Ammi of ‘abusive comments’ after two-hour stand-off

Their protests led to the court’s list, which contained 46 cases, being suspended for two hours

Enoch Burke and his sister Ammi leaving the High Court this afternoon. Picture: Collins Courts© Collins Photos

Enoch and Ammi Burke© Collins Photos

Enoch Burke leaving the High Court this afternoon.© Collins Photos


A judge has accused Enoch Burke and his sister Ammi of making “groundless complaints” and “abusive comments” following a stand-off in which they both refused to leave his courtroom.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore twice rose from the bench when the Burkes protested and refused to leave the court after the judge said he would not deal with an application the dismissed schoolteacher wanted to make.

Their protests led to the court’s list, which contained 46 cases, being suspended for two hours.

After the Burkes finally left, Mr Justice O’Moore said: “Today, the operation of this list was disturbed by two individuals who appear to feel entitled to turn up unannounced with no notice to the other side and, in truth, not for the purpose of making any application to the court at all.

Enoch and Ammi Burke© Collins Photos

"They seem to feel entitled to make groundless complaints and deliver themselves of abusive comments.”

He told parties who had been waiting patiently for their matter to be called that “the best response to these people is to get through the business that this court is here to do and that is what will be done today”.

A review hearing was due to take place today of daily fines of €700 imposed last month on Mr Burke for his continued defiance of court orders restraining him from attending at Wilson’s Hospital School.

However, the parties were informed earlier this week that the matter was being deferred due to pressure on the court’s list.

Last week Mr Justice O’Moore also deferred a mention hearing in relation to an application from the school’s board of management to amend an affidavit sworn by its chairman, John Rogers. Fresh dates have yet to be set for the hearing of both matters.

Despite the deferral of the hearing previously scheduled for today, Mr Burke and his sister attended at the court at 11am this morning.

The schoolteacher asked Mr Justice O’Moore if he could be heard on the affidavit issue.

However, the judge said Mr Burke had not put the school on notice of any application.

"I am not going to deal with the matter in the absence of the school,” said Mr Justice O’Moore.

He indicated that the parties would be emailed later.

But Mr Burke was not happy about this and he and his sister refused to leave the court, even after the judge rose and returned to his chambers. They stayed in the courtroom for around half an hour, only leaving after the court registrar informed lawyers that the judge would sit again at 12.30pm.

When the judge resumed sitting, the Burkes re-entered the court and Enoch Burke again sought to make an application, claiming the judge’s actions were “outrageous”.

But Mr Justice O’Moore said: "Mr Burke, you are not going to disrupt the business of the court any further.”

He directed that the schoolteacher and his sister be removed by gardaí, saying he would not sit again until they had left the courtroom.

However, the Burkes refused to go for a second time, leading to a further suspension of the sitting for another half hour.

As the judge rose, Ammi Burke, a solicitor, shouted at him: “Why are you fleeing out of the court, judge? What are you hiding?”

She shouted: “The judge is fleeing out the door when one of the parties asks a question. This is extremely serious. Extremely serious that a judge is fleeing out the door when one of the parties simply asks a question, simply makes an ex parte application.”

Enoch Burke was removed by gardaí but his sister remained in the courtroom.

Enoch Burke leaving the High Court this afternoon.© Collins Photos

Approached by a garda in the courtroom, Ammi Burke said: “The guards should not be getting involved. I am a solicitor. It is not right that the judge is asking the guards to remove people from the court simply for asking a question.”

When the garda said: “Please leave the court”, Ammi Burke replied: "You should not be directing me to leave the courtroom. The judge should listen to the parties.”

She eventually left and the court resumed its list shortly after 1pm.

Despite being hit with a daily fine of €700, Mr Burke has continued to show up each day at the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. By yesterday, the cumulative sum in fines owed amounted to €9,800.

Mr Burke has previously indicated he is unwilling to pay the fines.

Asked last month if he would pay, Mr Burke said: “I don’t believe I should pay it. I am putting it in the nicest possible way.”

The history and German teacher was suspended by the board of management last August after clashing with management over a request from then principal Niamh McShane that teachers comply with a transgender child’s wishes to be called by a new name and by their preferred pronouns.

Mr Burke, who is from a well-known family of evangelical Christians, publicly objected to the request on religious grounds. His suspension followed incidents in which he voiced his opposition to the request at a church service and following a school dinner.

However, he continued to show up for work, even after the school secured court orders restraining him from doing so.

This led to him being jailed for 108 days for contempt of court. He was eventually released just before Christmas despite not purging his contempt.

Mr Burke resumed attending at the school when it reopened on January 5 following the Christmas break.

The schoolteacher was dismissed from his post on January 20, a day after a disciplinary meeting descended into chaos amid objections and shouting by Mr Burke, his sister Ammi, brother Isaac and mother Martina.

The High Court subsequently issued a ruling on an application from the board of management seeking either the sequestration of his assets or the imposition of a fine.

Mr Justice O’Moore opted to impose a daily fine of €700, which he said could be increased if Mr Burke did not comply.

The judge said the fines “should persuade Mr Burke to end his utterly pointless attendance at a school which does not want him on its property”. However, they have not dissuaded him from doing so.

The High Court heard on January 27 that the school wanted to correct inaccuracies in affidavits sworn by Mr Rogers and a report submitted to the board by Ms McShane.

These related to a meeting last May where the transgender child made their request.

Alex White SC, for the board of management, said that contrary to what had been deposed by Mr Rogers, there had only been one parent at the meeting rather than two.

He said it had also been inaccurately stated that the principal was present at the meeting.

In fact, the meeting was taken by a year head and a special needs coordinator. Although the then principal had looked in on the meeting, she was not present for the substantive part of it, Mr White said.

The barrister said he did not believe the inaccuracies had any bearing on orders given by the court restraining Mr Burke from attending at the school, but added that it was clear a corrective affidavit would have to be filed.

Mr Justice Conor Dignam directed the issue be brought to Mr Burke’s attention and that a corrective affidavit be filed. He made the matter returnable to January 31 before Mr Justice O’Moore.

However, the listing was deferred by Mr Justice O’Moore and he has yet to be addressed on the issue.

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