Teacher Enoch Burke, jailed for contempt of court over a transgender row at school, spent his first night in custody isolated from the general prison population.
Urke was committed to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin yesterday by order of a High Court judge.
The initial phase of his incarceration is spent in the prison’s C-Base, where all newly admitted prisoners undergo a standard risk assessment upon arrival.
As part of the measures put in place by the prison service to prevent the spread of Covid-19, all newly admitted persons are also swabbed and isolated upon arrival until they test negative.
This means Mr Burke will not mingle with the general prison population until a negative test for Covid-19 is returned, as is standard practice when he remains in custody.
Judge Michael Quinn has said the school teacher will remain in jail until he clears his contempt of court and agrees to comply with the injunction obtained by the school.
Burke was sent to Mountjoy Prison for contempt of court after telling a judge he would not comply with a court order preventing him from going to work during the suspension, claiming it would violate his religious violate beliefs.
The school teacher resisted a request by Wilson’s Hospital School to have him jailed, saying, “I love my school. I’m here today because I wouldn’t call a boy a girl.”
He told Mr Justice Michael Quinn: “I will not do that. It goes against my conscience.”
The evangelical Christian was suspended from full pay pending the completion of a disciplinary hearing on August 24 after a dispute with the principal and school board over the requirement that teachers address a transgender student by a new name, using the pronoun ” they” should use “he”.
However, he continued to show up for work, prompting the Diocese of Church of Ireland boarding school to seek and obtain an injunction from Ms Justice Siobhan Stack last Wednesday, preventing him from returning to its premises in Multyfarmham, Co Westmeath to come.
Despite this order, he continued to come to school every morning. This led to another motion by the board and Judge Miriam O’Regan on Friday ordered Mr Burke arrested and tried.
Rosemary Mallon, solicitor for the school’s board of directors, told Judge Quinn that she did not want to punish Mr Burke, just compel him to comply with orders to stay away from her premises.
“It is with a heavy heart that the school had to make this request,” she said.
The attorney said that Mr Burke’s own account met the criminal standard of proof beyond any reasonable doubt that he had violated the order and would continue to do so.
Mr Burke, representing himself, sat outside the court on a bench reserved for senior counsel after being invited to do so by the judge. He confirmed that he intended to show up for school work if he was not arrested.
Mr Justice Quinn said the only matter he could deal with was whether there had been a willful breach of Ms Justice Stack’s order and he could not deal with questions raised by Mr Burke about his suspension .
The judge said there was no dispute that Mr Burke failed to comply with the order and he was satisfied that the teacher disobeyed the court.
“I order that he be committed to Mountjoy Prison and remain there until he renounces his contempt or until further direction from this court,” Judge Quinn said.
Earlier, Mr Burke told the court: “I’m a teacher and I don’t want to be in jail. I want to be in my classroom today.”
He claimed his suspension was due to a procedural error, which he said violated due process and was unlawful. He said for his suspension to be valid, he would have had to have committed gross misconduct.
“It is reprehensible that anyone’s religious beliefs could be used as grounds for wrongdoing or gross wrongdoing,” he said.
The teacher said transgenderism was against his religious beliefs and against the teachings of all major churches on the island of Ireland.
“If I were to obey the orders of the board and the orders of the court, I would have to accept that it is wrong to hold onto my belief in husband and wife,” he said.
“It’s not something I’m going to do. It goes against my conscience.
“If I were to go to school and bow down to something that I know was obviously wrong, it would be a shame and a shame on my part.”
Following the judge’s decision, Mr Burke, who wore a gray plaid suit and open-necked white shirt, said he would not be able to remove his disdain.
“I cannot remove my contempt by despising my Christian faith,” he said.
Mr Burke hugged his father Sean and brother Isaac, who had been watching from the court before being taken away by Gardaí.
He had been arrested on the premises of the boarding school and taken to court by Gardaí, where he arrived at 10.30am yesterday.
However, the hearing on the contempt motion did not begin until 2 p.m. as there were other matters on the court’s list.
Mr. Burke comes from a well-known family of Castlebar, Co. Mayo. He and some of his siblings have been involved in several lawsuits and other disputes in recent years, some involving their religious beliefs.
Mr Burke has been at odds with the hierarchy at the Church of Ireland diocesan school since May, when then-principal Niamh McShane made the request to staff.
It came after a meeting between the principal, a student and the student’s parents, at which the principal was told the child wanted the transition.
According to documents filed with the court, Mr Burke later told Ms McShane that he could not agree to transgenderism and that “the claim” she had made should be withdrawn.
However, the headmaster pointed out that the school’s ethos is inclusive and that the welfare of the students is paramount.
Ms McShane told Mr Burke that it was also part of the school’s admissions policy that it did not discriminate against a student on any of the grounds set out in the Equality Act.
She said any refusal to address people by their preferred gender or new name would constitute gender discrimination.
An affidavit from CEO John Rogers detailed how Mr Burke refused to accept this and repeatedly raised the issue and clashed with the director and board.
Mr Burke was arrested at the boarding school premises in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath this morning and was taken by Gardaí to the High Court in Dublin, where he arrived at 10.30am
These included an incident where Mr Burke interrupted a service marking the school’s 260th anniversary in June.
During the closing prayer, he is said to have stood up and spoken for between two and three minutes to demand that Ms McShane’s motion be withdrawn.
He claimed it went against the school’s ethos and the vision of its founder, Andrew Wilson, and the teachings of the Church of Ireland.
The outbreak prompted an exodus of members of the community, including sixth graders.
According to Mr Rogers, a dinner was held after the service, after which Mr Burke approached Ms McShane and “excitedly” asked her to withdraw her request to staff.
Ms McShane said she was ready to speak to him but this was not the place and she walked away from him. However, it is alleged that he followed her and continued to question her loudly. Mr Rogers said other people stood between them to prevent questioning from proceeding.
In a report to the school board, Ms McShane, who has since taken on a principal position at another school, expressed “serious concerns” about how Mr Burke might act in the future.
“These concerns extend to the affected student and the entire student body,” she said.
The Burke family is no stranger to controversy.
Earlier this year, Enoch’s sister Ammi, a lawyer, clashed with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and a judge over the handling of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit she is bringing against the Arthur Cox law firm.
Her claim was thrown out by the WRC after repeated interruptions by her mother, Martina Burke.
The family matriarch runs Burke Christian School in Castlebar and homeschooled her ten children.
Three years ago she criticized LGBTQ+ training for school leaders, calling it an “amoral, revealing framework”.
Last April, she and two of her children, Jemima and Josiah, were disqualified from an investigation by Gardaí after they made unsubstantiated claims about a child’s health care.
In 2021, Ammi, Enoch and two other siblings, Isaac and Kezia, lost a court case against NUI Galway over a decision banning them from college societies for life. The court heard the Burkes handing out flyers implicitly associating gay marriage with pedophilia and incest.
Mr Burke did not appear in court on Friday and was not legally represented, but was made aware of the court’s decision to issue the warrant, the school’s attorney said.
The school claims i.eDespite being served with and made aware of the restraining order, Mr. Burke continues to attend school.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/teacher-enoch-burke-spent-his-first-night-in-custody-isolated-from-general-prison-population-41960828.html Teacher Enoch Burke spent his first night in confinement isolated from the general prison population