Judge orders Enoch Burke’s release from Mountjoy Prison

Citing two other cases, Mr Justice O’Moore said there was precedent for coercive imprisonment being brought to an end by the court

Enoch Burke


A judge has ordered the release of Enoch Burke despite the schoolteacher’s ongoing refusal to comply with High Court orders.

He was jailed on September 5 for contempt of court after defying orders restraining him from attending or attempting to teach pupils at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

The school sought the orders after Burke continued to show up for work despite being suspended after clashing with management over a request that teachers call a transgender child “they” instead of “he”.

Burke, who is from a family of well-known evangelical Christians, has claimed he could not comply with the “demand” or the subsequent court orders due to his religious beliefs.

During the 108 days he had been in prison, Burke refused several opportunities to purge his contempt, most recently last week when he begged a judge to release him even though he continued to defy the orders.

In theory, Burke could have remained in Mountjoy Prison indefinitely as a result of his stance.

But in a ruling this afternoon, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore ordered that Burke be released from Mountjoy Prison “as soon as this can practicably be done”.

The judge said that having considered a number of factors, he had concluded that this was “one of the very rare cases where the coercive imprisonment should stop, at least for the moment”.

Citing two other cases, including one involving a Shell To Sea protester, Mr Justice O’Moore said there was precedent for coercive imprisonment being brought to an end by the court.

“In those two judgments, the court ended, on a permanent basis in respect of the relevant orders, the incarceration of individuals despite the fact that they had not purged their contempt,” he said.

“In the current case, I am ordering the release of Mr Burke but only on the basis that the school can come back to court to seek his attachment and committal, the sequestration of his assets, or any other appropriate measure in the event that he does not comply with any court order.”

Mr Justice O’Moore said the release was not for a set period.

“Mr Burke will remain at liberty unless and until any further Court Order is made imprisoning him. The only threat to Mr Burke’s continued freedom will arise if he again breaches any order of this court, including the existing orders,” the judge said.

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