The founder of Burke Christian School in Castlebar, Martina Burke is a determined woman who stands up for her faith. She is a mother of 10 and claimed during a court case her son Isaac brought against NUIG in 2020 that he had raised “hundreds” of children over the past three decades.
he latest episode in her family’s long history of public protests and high-profile court cases saw lawyer Ammi Burke’s wrongful dismissal case thrown out by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) amid chaotic scenes.
Martina Burke kept interrupting and “scolding” the adjudicator. After at least five warnings and suspensions, the appeal was thrown out because of Ms. Burke’s obstructive behavior.
During the hearing, Ammi Burke asked the lead defense attorney to retract his remark that the Burke family was like a “travelling circus,” calling it “highly defamatory.”
“I disagree… How dare you call me and my mother a ‘traveling circus,'” she said.
“My family is well respected in the local community in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. My mother is a qualified teacher and has been teaching for over 30 years. It is the height of insult and a defamatory comment.”
Martina Burke is married to Sean Burke, an electrician. He is described by Castlebar locals as ‘a quiet bloke’.
A local said: “Aside from all the protesting and shouting and yelling, people don’t know her. They keep to themselves, and neither child has ever socialized in town.
“I don’t know that they are involved in any sports or anything like that.
“I feel for them because Castlebar is a great city for young people. They have never mixed with other children I know.
“People don’t mix with them … They’re kind of scared because they bring a lot of drama with them. It’s really sad.”
Ms. Burke, a qualified teacher, has homeschooled all of her children, and her academic performance speaks for itself.
Last year Elijah Burke successfully challenged Education Secretary Norma Foley’s refusal to give him calculated grades in the High Court on the grounds that his mother, who taught him, would award his grades.
The court heard that eight of Elijah’s siblings had averaged 520 points on the Leaving Cert and all received first-class honors degrees.
Other members of the Burke family have risen to prominence in recent years.
Jemima Burke, a journalism graduate, came to public attention when her rampant questioning of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan went viral at an Nphet press conference.
Jemima gained access to the press conference by posing as a journalist The West Newsa Galway-based newspaper which ceased publication in 1926.
Members of the Burke family and their posters have become a familiar sight in Castlebar’s market square.
They have protested against a range of issues over the years; Most recently, Mayo University Hospital was the focus.
They previously protested the Castlebar Gay Pride Parade and campaigned heavily against gay marriage.
During the abortion referendum, they held a regular post outside of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s constituency office.
A local representative added: “Even if you are one of those people who likes conflict, the way they operate is difficult to understand.
“Even when they have a valid point of view on something, the way they go about it is awful to watch.”
Another local said, “To give her wages, her mother is also a very good teacher. They all did very well. They also teach grinds in-house and have an excellent reputation for that.
“My friend’s son went to the boys’ house to learn math and thought they were nice to deal with.”
Over the years, Martina Burke has placed advertisements in local newspapers in Mayo.
She initially sold religious books, but in recent years she has published full-page advertorials for her school.
In August 2018, Ms Burke criticized the introduction of LGBTQI+ training for school leaders. She described it as an “amoral, permissive framework” that would “stigmatize modesty and inhibitions.”
“Children are instructed to ignore their parents’ values and instead consider dangerous alternatives ‘open-minded’, as God’s moral standards are traded for ‘self-made choices,'” she said.
Last November, four of the Burke siblings lost a lawsuit against NUI Galway over a decision banning them from college society membership for life.
Isaac, Kezia, Ammi and Enoch Burke, all members of the Christian Union Society (CUS) in 2014, claimed to have been discriminated against because of their religion. However, the college maintained the ban had nothing to do with religion.
The court heard the Burkes distribute anti-gay marriage flyers that implicitly linked gay marriage to pedophilia and incest. Some fellow students had complained about the leaflets and flyers.
Judge Raymond Groarke found many procedural violations in the handling of the case by the University Societies Coordination Group.
However, he found “serious aggravating circumstances”, including the Burkes’ failure to cooperate in the investigation, their efforts to prevent it, and their failure to give a truthful account of the affairs.
He also found that accounts had been falsified and CUS funds misused.
In February, Gardaí’s Martina, Jemima and Josiah Burke were physically removed in highly distressing scenes at Mayo’s Coroner’s Court in Swinford, Co. Mayo.
Coroner Pat O’Connor called the Burkes a disgrace to the country after they repeatedly disrupted the inquest into teenager Sally Maaz, 17, who died of Covid-19 at Mayo University Hospital in 2020.
On the first day of evidence, after several witnesses had already testified, Jemima Burke stood up and began adjourning the proceedings.
Mr O’Connor told her he was unwilling to listen to her “chatter and bluster”.
“You contacted me by phone and I told you that I am not ready for you or your mother or any of your supporters to interfere with the proper investigation into the death of this unfortunate Sally Maaz,” he said.
Jemima Burke continued to scream and move around the court.
Then Martina Burke got up and started screaming and disrupting the proceedings.
Johan Verbruggen, the Maaz family’s attorney, asked the Burkes, also on behalf of the Maaz family, to stop disrupting the hearing.
In a brittle exchange, Mr O’Connor said: “You are the perversion of all that is right and just. Think of this poor family you are causing so much suffering.”
At this point, both Martina and Jemima Burke were removed from court by Gardaí.
Both women seemed to be dragging their heels on the floor, but walked away peacefully.
On the second day of evidence, both women and Josiah Burke again caused a protracted disruption that left Sally Maaz’s mother in tears.
As evidence was heard, Martina Burke stood up, threw up her hands and shouted, “This is criminal” and “This is a mockery.”
As Gardaí tried to quell the disturbance and escort her out of the courtroom, she yelled, “We’re not going. We will not go.”
Josiah Burke exclaimed, “How dare you drag me out of this court. This dish is a sham.”
As Gardaí escorted her out, Martina Burke appeared to stand on the ground, forcing the Gardaí to drag her across the ground and hold her under their arms. Josiah did the same and had to be dragged slowly across the floor while occasionally squealing in disapproval.
Garda Superintendent Joe McKenna returned to the hearing and asked Mr O’Connor to calm down for a minute as he intended to make the speech
“I would like to apologize to the Maaz family, who have no connection with the Burke family and who have unfortunately suffered and endured outrageous behavior,” he said, adding that the Burkes’ actions “came from a different agenda.”
“It has nothing to do with today’s investigation here,” he said. “I’m sorry we had to take this action, but we had no alternative.”
The Burke family continued to protest outside the courthouse after their eviction.
Mr O’Connor thanked Supt McKenna and Gardaí, who were present at the courthouse throughout the inquest, and said they were
acted in an exemplary manner.
“It is extremely unfortunate that there are extremists of this nature who are parasites on society and believe that they are above the law in one way or another,” he said.
“I find it difficult that there are people who can put a family like Mr and Mrs Maaz and their daughters through the horror they inflicted on them yesterday and today.”
The inquest into the death of Sally Maaz will conclude today.
The Burke family did not respond when approached for comment Irish Independent.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/people-dont-mix-with-them-they-are-kind-of-afraid-a-history-of-the-burke-familys-legal-dramas-41540093.html “People Don’t Mix With Them…They’re Kinda Scared”: A History of the Burke Family’s Legal Dramas