Enoch Burke appeals High Court decision to grant school injunction against him

The teacher has not appealed the High Court orders committing him to prison for contempt
Enoch Burke appeals High Court decision to grant school injunction against him

High Court reporters

Jailed teacher Enoch Burke has formally lodged an appeal against a High Court injunction preventing him from attending or teaching at the school where he is employed.

Mr Burke, who objects to addressing a student with the pronoun "they" and opposes transgenderism, was committed to prison last month to stay there until he agrees to obey the court order not to attend or attempt to teach any classes at Wilson's Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

The school obtained an order committing Mr Burke, who had been suspended pending the hearing of a disciplinary hearing into allegations of misconduct against him, to prison over his failure to comply with the injunction.

Arising out of his refusal to purge his contempt, he has been in Mountjoy Prison since early September.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Burke, accompanied by members of the Irish Prison Services and assisted by his brother, Isaac Burke, formally lodged his appeal against the injunction at the Office of the Court of Appeal (CoA).

On Monday, the High Court granted him an order allowing him to attend the Four Courts Complex in person.

In his appeal, Mr Burke wants the CoA to set aside orders including the granting of the temporary ex-parte injunction against him, and the subsequent decision to keep the injunction in place pending the final hearing of the matter.

He also has appealed the High Court's dismissal of applications brought by him aimed at setting aside his suspension from the school.

Contempt

Mr Burke has not appealed the High Court orders committing him to prison for contempt.

His appeal is due to be mentioned before a directions hearing of the CoA later this month but it is understood his appeal is unlikely to be heard before Christmas.

After the appeal was lodged, Mr Burke was transported back to Mountjoy Prison.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Isaac Burke confirmed his brother has "no intention" of purging his contempt, a move that would secure his release from prison.

Enoch Burke, a History and German teacher, was suspended on full pay late last August pending an investigation into alleged misconduct, which he denies.

Arising out of his refusal to stay away from the school, its board of management obtained a High Court injunction against him. His refusal to comply with that order resulted in his incarceration.

Mr Burke claims the case centres on his opposition to a direction by his employer to address a student at the school, who wishes to transition, by the pronoun 'they' and by a different name.

He says the suspension is unlawful, unfair and unreasonable and in breach of his constitutional rights to religion, freedom of expression and conscience.

Lawyers for the school have argued that the matters it had reluctantly put before the court are not about the teacher's opposition to transgenderism, but about his refusal to obey an order of the court.

The school, which is the Church of Ireland's Diocesan School for Meath and Kildare, claims Mr Burke's refusal to comply with the injunction was disruptive to the school's students at the beginning of the new academic year.

Paid administrative leave

Mr Burke, who rejects that argument, has brought his own proceedings against the school where he seeks various orders and declarations including a declaration that the disciplinary process against him is unlawful and a breach of his constitutional rights, including his rights to freedom of expression, conscience, and religion.

He also seeks various orders preventing the school from continuing both his paid administrative leave, and the disciplinary process against him.

He further seeks an order preventing the school from dismissing him from his position.

Mr Burke was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary process commenced by the school, where he has been employed for several years.

That process commenced after it is alleged Mr Burke publicly voiced his alleged opposition to the school principal’s direction to address a student, who wishes to transition, by a different name and by using the pronoun 'they' rather than he or she.

The school claims that a service and dinner was held to mark its 260th anniversary last June, which was attended by clergy, staff, past and present pupils, parents, and board members.

It is claimed that Mr Burke interrupted the service and said the school's then-principal, Niamh McShane, should withdraw the earlier demand regarding the student.

It is also claimed that he said he could not agree with transgenderism, and said it went against the school's ethos and the teaching of the Church of Ireland.

The school claims that after he spoke, members of the congregation and students walked out of the school chapel where the service was being conducted.

After the meal, he is alleged to have approached the principal and again asked her to withdraw the request regarding the student.

Arising out of Mr Burke's alleged conduct a disciplinary process was commenced, and considered by the board, resulting in a decision to place him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the process.

In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Burke said he rejects claims made by the former school principal that he questioned her loudly at the function.

Mr Burke said Ms McShane's allegations against him are "entirely false".

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