Chaotic scenes | 

Enoch Burke denies he and his relatives are bullies as gardaí are twice called to disciplinary meeting

When the doors of the meeting room were opened, they could be seen gathered in front of the top table, shouting and gesticulating.

Enoch Burke at The Mullingar Park Hotel, where meeting was held. Photo: Gerry Mooney


Suspended teacher Enoch Burke has denied an accusation he and members of his family were engaged in bullying, after gardaí were twice called to a school board of management meeting where his case was being considered.

The meeting yesterday turned chaotic from the beginning when Mr Burke, his mother Martina, sister Ammi and brother Isaac loudly objected to the presence of two lawyers representing Wilson’s Hospital School and the absence of the chairman of the board of management.

Mr Burke later denied an accusation from one of the lawyers that the family were “being bullies”.

Although held in private, the Burkes could all be heard from the hallway outside the conference room at the Mullingar Park Hotel shouting and repeatedly chanting, “Chairperson John Rogers must be present at this meeting”, “Where is the chairperson?” and “It’s a sham. It’s a cover-up”.

When the doors of the meeting room were opened, they could be seen gathered in front of the top table, shouting and gesticulating.

The disciplinary meeting took place after the High Court ruled Mr Burke could not have an injunction stopping it from going ahead due to his repeated breach of orders restraining him from turning up for work at the school premises in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, was suspended last August following incidents in which he clashed with school management over a request to call a transgender pupil by a new name and to use “they/their” pronouns in connection with the child. He says that to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

The meeting got under way shortly after 10am, but five gardaí arrived around 11.15am.

They did not enter the meeting room but maintained a presence until the disturbance eased.

Principal Frank Milling eventually suspended the meeting due to the disturbance.

The Burkes were ushered out of the conference room but refused to leave the hallway outside.

The meeting then resumed in their absence in another conference room.

A source told the Irish Independent some board members found the atmosphere intimidating.

Gardaí remained with the Burkes in the hallway until their protests quietened down. The officers left at 12.15pm.

Ammi Burke told the Irish Independentthey had objected to presence of two lawyers, Fiona Sheil and Catherine Kelly, both solicitors with leading firm Mason Hayes and Curran.

She maintained the school should only have been represented by its board of management.

Around 2pm, while the meeting was ongoing, there was a verbal confrontation in the hallway when the Burkes sought to question Ms Kelly. Gardaí were not present at the time.

Ms Kelly asked them to leave her alone and accused them of “being bullies”.

Enoch Burke replied: “I absolutely reject that accusation. That is a heinous accusation to make.”

Ms Kelly responded: “I am going to call the guards because I actually feel unsafe.”

A short time later two gardaí arrived back at the hotel and they entered the conference room. They did not engage with the Burkes.

The Burkes’ other objection related to the absence of board chairman John Rogers, who was absent for medical reasons.

In a recent court hearing, Enoch Burke accused Mr Rogers of lying in an affidavit which stated a report about incidents involving the teacher was read but not discussed at a meeting of the board last August.

The High Court heard this was contradicted by board minutes. Mr Rogers denies misleading the court.

When the meeting ended at 3.30pm two gardaí were present to escort some of those present out of the hotel.

However, the Burkes proceeded to follow Mr Milling and the solicitors out of a restaurant exit, pursuing them along the driveway in front of the hotel and then back into the hotel’s lobby.

It only ended when Mr Milling and one of the lawyers were ushered through an internal door off the lobby.

The school did not comment on the outcome of the resumed meeting.

However, the Irish Independentunderstands board members focused on what next steps the board could take in light of the earlier suspension of the meeting, rather than reaching any decision on Mr Burke’s future employment.

Earlier this week, the High Court found that while there were grounds under which the test for an injunction stopping the meeting had been met, it could not grant it while Mr Burke continued to defy High Court orders.

The meeting took place under stage four of Department of Education and Skills procedures regarding the suspension or dismissal of teachers.

This stage involves board of management consideration of a principal’s report and a presentation by the teacher to the board. Sanctions open to the board include demotion and dismissal.

Mr Burke has objected to the contents of the report.

He spent 108 days in prison last year for contempt of court over his refusal to stay away from the school. However he returned the school when it reopened following the Christmas holidays.

The High Court is set to rule next week on an application for the sequestration of his assets for ongoing contempt.

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