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Enoch Burke turns up at school again despite court warning as fines reach €17,500

Sacked schoolteacher Enoch Burke appears to have sabotaged his chances of winning an appeal against High Court orders

Dismissed history and German teacher Enoch Burke at the gates of Wilson’s Hospital School. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Enoch Burke. Photo: Colin Keegan© Colin Keegan

Conor Feehan and Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

Sacked schoolteacher Enoch Burke appears to have sabotaged his chances of winning an appeal against High Court orders after turning up at his former workplace yet again this morning.

He arrived at Wilson’s Hospital School around 8.40am, in defiance of High Court orders, despite being warned by the President of the Court of Appeal that it may not deliver a decision if there was further “egregious conduct” by Mr Burke.

The Mayo teacher is being fined €700 a day while continuing to turn up at the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.

Today marks the 25th day since the court ruling on the matter. This means Enoch Burke now owes €17,500.

Mr Justice George Birmingham warned last Thursday that it would consider appeals of just two of the four High Court decisions Mr Burke was seeking to challenge, but that a decision on the merits is “very much in Mr Burke’s hands”.

The three-judge court made the decision to limit what it would consider after the dismissed schoolteacher refused to say if he would stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School pending the delivery of its ruling.

Enoch Burke. Photo: Colin Keegan© Colin Keegan

Mr Burke has continued to go to its premises each school day despite first being suspended and later dismissed from his job there as a teacher of history and German. He spent 108 days in prison last year for contempt of court orders and is currently being fined for each day he remains in contempt.

His suspension last August came after Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, refused to comply with a request from the then principal to call a transgender pupil by a new name and by their preferred pronouns.

He was sacked last month but a tribunal will hear an appeal of his dismissal in April.

The teacher is not appealing the order which resulted in his imprisonment.

Instead he is asking the Court of Appeal to set aside a temporary injunction granted by Ms Justice Siobhan Stack last August restraining him from attending for work, and a subsequent decision of Mr Justice Max Barrett last September to keep the injunction in place pending a final hearing of the matter.

These decisions will be considered by the Court of Appeal.

But two other subsequent High Court decisions, made by Mr Justice Conor Dignam and Ms Justice Eileen Roberts, will not. These include the dismissal of an application brought by Mr Burke aimed at setting aside his suspension.

Outlining his appeal, Mr Burke claimed the orders restraining him from turning up at the school were “unlawful”, “unconstitutional” and had no legal effect.

He referred to articles of the Constitution regarding freedom to practice religious beliefs and homage to God.

Mr Justice Birmingham, sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, said last Thursday the court was “unimpressed Mr Burke won’t offer any assurance” regarding his future conduct.

After rising to consider whether it would hear the appeal at all, the judge said the court would consider his challenge to orders restraining him from turning up at the school but would not consider what he described as “positive” orders being sought by Mr Burke.

Mr Justice Birmingham also warned that the court may not deliver a decision in the appeal at all if there was further “egregious conduct” by Mr Burke, a reference to his ongoing contempt of court by going to the school.

“Whether there will be a decision on the merits will be very much in Mr Burke’s hands,” said Mr Justice Birmingham.

Enoch Burke has accused the Court of Appeal of putting a gun to his head after it decided to consider only part of his appeal of various orders of the High Court.

“It has made a novel distinction between past and future conduct without pointing to any precedent from any jurisdiction,” he said.

“What is being said to me now today is that there is no guarantee that this court will, in considering my argument today, deliver a judgment.

“It is like a student were to sit the Leaving Cert with no guarantee it would be marked,” he added.

He repeatedly questioned the court president, demanding to know if the other two decisions would be reviewed.

“Mr President you are engaging in subterfuge in the matter,” he claimed.

Mr Justice Birmingham warned Mr Burke that the court would “not be interrogated”.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court had “an element of discretion” to hear appeals from people who have previously been in contempt of court orders.

However, he said the court would have a difficulty with embarking on the hearing of an appeal in a “in a situation where there was ongoing disobedience of court orders”.

The judge said he expected any decision of the court would have to be reserved to a later date and repeatedly asked Mr Burke if he would abide by orders restraining him from attending at the school while judgment was awaited.

However, the teacher refused to give the “yes or no” answer sought by Mr Justice Birmingham.

But he answered the question this morning by again turning up at the school and standing outside after teaching resumed following the mid-term break last week.

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