'waste of time' | 

Trans row teacher Enoch Burke rejects chance to be released for school holidays

‘I am not looking for a Christmas gift’

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

Jailed schoolteacher Enoch Burke has rejected the opportunity to be temporarily released from prison for Christmas.

Burke, who has been in Mountjoy for 106 days for contempt of court, described an offer by a judge to consider releasing him during the school holidays as “an insult to justice” and “a waste of court time”.

He told a hearing of the High Court today that the only way he wanted to leave prison was as a “wholly vindicated” man.

Burke, who comes from a well-known family of evangelical Christians, was jailed on September 5 over his refusal to comply with temporary court orders restraining him from attending or attempting to teach students at Wilson’s Hospital School in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Enoch Burke’s parents, Sean and Martina Burke with other family members pictured leaving the High Court this afternoon.

The orders were secured by the school after Burke kept turning up for work despite being suspended after he publicly challenged a request from his principal to address a transgender child by a new name and to use the pronoun “they” instead of “he”.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Burke refused to purge his contempt but repeatedly begged Mr Justice Conor Dignam to free him, referring to Christmas as a time for being with family.

On that occasion, the judge said he could not release Burke due to his ongoing refusal to abide by the court orders and the fact those orders were valid and subsisting.

However, Mr Justice Dignam requested that Burke return to the court today.

The judge said it occurred to him after the previous hearing that it may be appropriate for the court to consider releasing the schoolteacher while the school was closed over the Christmas holiday.

Burke would be unable to breach the orders during that time as the school would be closed.

Mr Justice Dignam said he would set a hearing for next Wednesday at which Burke and lawyers for the school could express their views on the proposal.

However, Mr Burke told the judge: “I don’t see the point of coming in on Wednesday. I am not looking for a Christmas gift. I am looking for justice.”

He said that while it was his “great wish to spend Christmas at the family home gathered around the fire”, he did “not wish to leave prison on a reprieve”.

Burke went on to claim that his imprisonment, which he claims is down to his opposition to transgenderism, was “manifestly unlawful”.

“I fear this is an effort by the court to salve its conscience by offering me some mercy,” he said.

“But I wish to leave Mountjoy prison justified in my cause with that order overturned.

“I don’t see any other way in which the courts and the law of the land can deal with this matter and put it right other than by wholly vindicating me.”

Enoch Burke

After hearing Burke’s position, Mr Justice Dignam said he would still schedule the hearing for next Wednesday.

The judge said the court needed to govern its own processes and that Burke could choose not to attend if he wished.

Burke responded: “In circumstances where I have made my position clear, it seems a waste of court time.

“It is an insult to justice, this potential hearing.”

The schoolteacher’s parents Sean and Martina were present in court for the brief hearing, as were his siblings Isaac, Simeon and Ammi.

Burke’s claim that he is in prison due to his opposition to transgenderism was previously contradicted by another judge.

Mr Justice Max Barrett, has said the matter was not about transgenderism but rather Burke’s refusal to obey the terms of his suspension and the court orders.

Burke has claimed he cannot comply with the court orders due to his religious beliefs.

He has taken a challenge to the Court of Appeal against four High Court orders, repeatedly claiming the judges involved had failed to vindicate his rights under the constitution.

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