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Mother of teacher Enoch Burke removed from court after interrupting proceedings calling judge ‘corrupt’

‘We have to have decorum. We can’t have people shouting up at the bench’

Schoolteacher Enoch Burke. Photo: Collins

Eoin ReynoldsSunday World

The mother of teacher Enoch Burke, who is currently in jail for refusing to abide by a High Court injunction, was removed from court today after she interrupted proceedings to say that “corrupt” judges had “denied their vow to uphold the Constitution”. Mr Justice John Edwards at the Court of Appeal also directed that Enoch Burke’s sister, solicitor Ammi Burke, be referred to the Law Society after she refused to apologise for interrupting the proceedings despite the judge warning that he would hold in contempt anyone who committed a further interruption. Mr Justice Edwards later rescinded that order, adding: “We will say no more about it.” Enoch Burke was in court to set a date for an appeal hearing regarding a refusal by the High Court to lift an injunction against Mr Burke that prevented him from attending a school where he has worked as a teacher. Due to his refusal to abide by the injunction, he is now in Mountjoy Prison. When he was brought from the cell area of the courts building today, he said that he wanted to make a short oral appeal against certain orders of the High Court. Mr Justice Edwards refused, saying that today’s sitting was only procedural and he, sitting alone, could not hear an appeal on the substantive matters. Mr Burke said his case is a matter of “extreme urgency” in circumstances where, he said, his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of conscience and religion were not given any consideration by the High Court.

When Mr Justice Edwards said that the earliest date he could set for a hearing is February 16 next year, Mr Burke’s family began to interrupt. His mother Martina Burke said, “He is being incarcerated because of corrupt judges who denied their vow to uphold the Constitution. Have you a problem with religious rights?” She also said to Mr Justice Edwards that he was “colluding” with the High Court judges. Mr Justice Edwards ordered that Ms Burke be taken from court and briefly left the bench. When he returned he said: “These proceedings will be carried out with the appropriate decorum. If people interrupt the court I will arise and the matter will not progress.” He warned that others “may not interrupt” and added: “If anyone else does it they will be held in contempt and I want to make that clear.” He said that he understands this is “stressful” for Ms Burke and said that was why he was only asking for her to go outside but added: “We have to have decorum. We can’t have people shouting up at the bench.” Mr Burke resumed, saying that putting his hearing back to February 16 was “an insult to the rule of law” and that his being kept in custody is a “stain on this country”. He said that he is unable to purge his contempt in good conscience and said that his suspension from his teaching duties was unlawful and his case is a matter of “extreme urgency”. Mr Justice Edwards told him that February 16 is the earliest available date and adjourned the matter.

Mr Burke protested that his case should be heard at the earliest possible date and insisted that the court had the power to hold a special sitting in circumstances of extreme urgency. He added: “If there is a freeze on Constitutional rights to expression and freedom of religion, that is a matter of extreme urgency and should be put right.” Mr Burke said the court had not listened to him and quoted a piece of scripture beginning, “woe to them who call evil good.” Mr Burke asked if Justice Edwards was “colluding” with the High Court judges while Ammi Burke, sitting beside her brother, said: “It is a disgrace, it is very serious.” Mr Justice Edwards told Ms Burke that she, as a solicitor, is an officer of the court and had heard his warning not to interrupt proceedings. She is not on record as representing her brother, he said, and therefore he said her interruption was “potentially a contempt of court.” He said he would leave it at that if he got an apology. He repeatedly asked for an apology but when Ms Burke refused, he said that he would direct the matter to the Law Society of Ireland, “where a solicitor and officer of the court interrupted where she is not on record and has sought to be argumentative with the court.” Moments later, Mr Justice Edwards said: “I will rescind the order referring to the disciplinary committee and we will say no more about it.”

Mr Burke, who objects to addressing a student with the pronoun “they” and opposes transgenderism, was committed to prison last month until he agrees to obey the order not to attend or attempt to teach any classes at Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath. The school obtained an order committing Mr Burke, who had been suspended pending the hearing of a disciplinary hearing into allegations of misconduct against him, to prison over his failure to comply with the injunction. Mr Burke action before the Court of Appeal is against orders including the granting of the temporary ex parte injunction against him and the subsequent decision to keep the injunction in place pending the final hearing of the case. He also has appealed against the High Court’s dismissal of applications brought by him aimed at setting aside his suspension from the school. Mr Burke has not appealed the High Court orders committing him to prison for contempt.

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