Transgender row teacher Enoch Burke tells prison bosses, ‘I won't purge contempt’

Sources say Burke was unreceptive to reminders he could achieve his freedom at any time by accepting the terms of the court order and purging his contempt.

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

A supporter stands outside Mountjoy Prison

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

Transgender row teacher Enoch Burke has informed jail bosses he has no intention securing his own release from prison by purging his contempt.

The evangelical christian was jailed on Monday after he breached an injunction barring him from attending the school where he works.

He remains locked up in the committal area of Mountjoy Prison but is no longer in isolation after fulfilling the prison’s Covid quarantine protocols.

Burke has yet to be moved from cells set aside for new inmates near the prison reception where he has been incarcerated since his arrival.

It’s understood he was spoken with by a prison governor after his period of isolation ended.

Sources say Burke was unreceptive to reminders he could achieve his freedom at any time by accepting the terms of the court order and purging his contempt.

Sources have also confirmed that Burke will not now be moved into general population in the Dublin prison until early next week adding the prison is currently at or near capacity.

When the move occurs, the Castlebar teacher will be placed on a landing for prisoners on an enhanced regime.

Prisoners on enhanced regimes are those who have taken on jobs within the prison – and are considered to be at the lowest category of risk in terms of violent behaviour.

In a move that garnered him worldwide publicity this week, Burke chose to go to jail rather than comply with a court order barring him from attending Wilson’s Hospital School, a Church of Ireland diocesan boarding school, in Multyfarnham.

The injunction was issued pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings that arose as a result of his strong views on transgenderism.

The school claim Burke vocally and repeatedly objected to a request from his principal that a transgender student be referred to by the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘he.’

On Wednesday, having spent two nights in Mountjoy for contempt of court, Burke vowed: “I will never leave Mountjoy Prison if in leaving that prison I must violate my well-informed conscience, and my religious beliefs and deny my God.”

He continued that given the choice of abiding by the orders or acting in accordance with his religious beliefs, his answer would be the same for the next hundred years.

He claimed the court had stripped him of his liberty and his dignity, but it could not deprive him of his integrity and his religious convictions.

A supporter stands outside Mountjoy Prison

Mr Burke reiterated claims that transgenderism was against the teachings of every major church on the island of Ireland.

He said that during his time in prison he had time to consider whether any of his actions were wrong or amounted to misconduct and concluded that what he had done was “honourable”.

Burke also criticised the decision to jail him claiming the court had ‘divested itself of all honour and has been mean, contemptible and base.

“The tragedy of this case is that by merely stating my opposition to transgenderism, I have paid dearly,” he said.

Counsel for the school, Rosemary Mallon rejected Burke’s attempt to frame his incarceration as being a consequence of his beliefs or views transgenderism.

“It is not about his beliefs, it is about his conduct,” she said

The barrister said the case was in court because Mr Burke “was a teacher who ignored the nature and effect of the lawful decision of the school's board of management to suspend him on pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary process”.

Mr Justice Max Barrett agreed to continue the interlocutory injunction.

He agreed that the matter was “not about transgenderism” but the breach of an interlocutory injunction.

The judge adjourned the matter to next Wednesday of next week but said Mr Burke could come back to the court before then if he wished to purge his contempt.

Legal sources this week said it is unlikely, regardless of Burke’s court statements that he will be allowed to spend 100 years in prison or even one year for that matter.

“There is no statutory instrument in relation to contempt,” he said.

“Contempt is inherent in the powers of the court.

“It is within the powers of the Judge to come up with an alternative in the event a transgressor refuses to purge his contempt.

“In this instance, once the disciplinary proceedings are complete, it may be the case the judge decides there is no longer any reason to continue with the injunction.

“In that event, it is conceivable Mr. Burke may again be asked to purge his contempt.

“If he again refuses, the court could then deal with the matter by way of a fixed and defined sentence.

“That is one of a number of alternatives that could be explored to end this.”

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