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Judge rejects claims by Christian teacher of ‘mockery’ in court

08 April 2023

Alamy

Enoch Burke and his sister Ammi Burke arrive at the High Court in Dublin for a hearing on 28 March

Enoch Burke and his sister Ammi Burke arrive at the High Court in Dublin for a hearing on 28 March

A JUDGE has rejected an Evangelical teacher’s complaint that he had been mocked in court during a trial over his suspension last year from a Church of Ireland school, pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.

The judge, Mr Justice Owens, said that Enoch Burke’s behaviour before the Dublin High Court was “unacceptable”. He had warned him that he could return to the court after the first day of the hearing only if he accepted the authority of the court. Instead, Mr Burke made a statement outside court in which he accused the judge of unjustly barring him, and mocking him. The case continued without Mr Burke in attendance, or a legal representative to cross-examine witnesses.

The management board of Wilson’s Hospital School, in Co. Westmeath, and Mr Burke are in a dispute that stems from a request from the school’s former head teacher, last May, to address a student by a new name and the pronoun “they”.

Mr Burke was suspended from the school after he publicly called on the former head, Niamh McShane, to withdraw what he is alleged to have described as her “demand” to “recognise transgenderism”. She told the court that children present had been very upset by Mr Burke’s words.

Mr Burke maintains that the case is about the freedom to express his religious beliefs. The school’s counsel told the court last week that Mr Burke had never been required to deny his belief, but that he did not have a right to act without limit or restraint.

Mr Burke returned repeatedly to the school after his suspension last summer, and the school obtained a court order to prevent his access to the school grounds. When he breached the injunction, he was jailed for contempt of court. In one court appearance, he said that he would “only obey God” and not “obey man” on the issue of transgenderism.

Mr Burke was formally dismissed from his teaching position in January. He has continued to go to the school, and a judge has imposed a fine of €700 a day for each appearance since 27 July. Mr Burke had accumulated fines of almost €24,000 by the court date.

Mr Justice Owens delayed his judgment on the case last Friday, but is expected to rule shortly. He said that, in his provisional view, there was a clear case of trespass by Mr Burke, even if the school had acted incorrectly in suspending him. He continued the injunction preventing Mr Burke’s trespassing on school premises.

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland said that it was not commenting on the case.

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