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Irish High Court rules against suspended teacher in transgender row

22 May 2023

Wilson’s Hospital School/Facebook

Wilson’s Hospital School, in Co. West Meath

Wilson’s Hospital School, in Co. West Meath

THE Irish High Court has upheld a Church of Ireland school’s ban on one of its former teachers, who had refused to accept his exclusion from the premises.

The court granted Wilson’s Hospital School, in Co. West Meath, damages on Friday, and ruled that the school was entitled to a permanent injunction banning the teacher, Enoch Burke, from its premises.

Mr Burke, an Evangelical, had argued that his suspension from the school in August 2022 was unlawful and a result of his opposition to transgender rights.

He was suspended from the school after publicly calling on the former head Niamh McShane to withdraw what Mr Burke is alleged to have described as her “demand” to “recognise transgenderism”. The school had asked teachers to address a student by a new name and the pronoun “they”.

The school’s counsel told the court at the hearing last month 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 (News, 14 April).

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 imprisoned for contempt of court.

Mr Burke was formally dismissed from his teaching position in January. He is currently appealing against his dismissal. He has continued to turn up at the school premises, and a judge has imposed a fine of €700 a day for each appearance.

In his ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Alexander Owens said that, owing to Mr Burke’s behaviour at a meeting of the school management board, it was “rational and reasonable” for the board to expect him to engage in further harmful or disruptive conduct.

Mr Justice Owens also ruled that Mr Burke had had no right to enter the school once he had been suspended, and that his attendance afterwards had amounted to trespass. The judge awarded the school €15,000 in damages, and said that, in his provisional view, the costs of the court action should be awarded against Mr Burke.

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