Dismissed teacher Enoch Burke and his brother Josiah appear to have spent more than €2,500 on attack ads against politicians who endorsed LGBTQ+ and abortion rights in recent elections.
As reported by the Irish Independent, the Burke brothers created websites and social media ads to target former cabinet minister Katherine Zappone, MEP Maria Walsh and senator Pauline O’Reilly, who are well-known for their support of LGBTQ+ rights. They spent thousands of euros on ads on Facebook and Google that then redirected voters to the made-up websites.
The ads in question were created across the European Parliament elections in May 2019 and the Irish general elections in February 2020. While such ads are a normal occurrence during elections in the US, the campaigns created by the Burke brothers were unique in Ireland.
On one of the websites created to attack Katherine Zappone, the former Minister was described as “the first female TD, senator and cabinet member to identify as a homosexual in the Irish government” and she was accused of having radical beliefs because “she praises the value of witchcraft but suggests that Christian beliefs are a danger to society”.
Moreover, the website stated that Zappone “has promoted LGBT, weakened the power of parents and pushed to criminalise ‘homophobia’ despite the threat to religious freedom”.
A second website was created to specifically attack MEP Maria Walsh, saying that she is “primarily known for two things: her identification as an ‘LGBT activist’ and her winning of the Rose of Tralee in 2014. She has little or no political experience.”
It continued by referencing Maria Walsh’s “gay lifestyle” and by explaining that she “could have highlighted any number of things with which to spearhead her campaign, but ‘ruffling the feathers’ of those with traditional beliefs is what she chose”.
Senator O’Reilly was mainly targeted for her opposition to the Galway ring road, however, she said that this focus was intended to hurt her whole campaign. “Their campaign was purely driven by their conservative values and me as a person they didn’t want elected. They were clearly targeting me because of my values,” O’Reilly said.
“I am not a member of the LGBT community, but quite clearly, I am an ally to the LGBT community and more of a threat to this family because of the stances I had taken,” she said, stating that there is an urgent need for greater transparency around who funds this type of ads. “Either you ban them or you clearly show who is behind them,” she said.
Enoch Burke’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights has recently gained media attention after the former teacher started a dispute with Wilson’s Hospital School. The school initiated a disciplinary process against Burke months ago due to his alleged conduct at a school event in June, where he harassed the former school principal and publicly disputed a trans student’s ‘they/them’ pronouns.
Burke was then arrested in September for contempt of court after he continued to show up on school grounds, despite a court order prohibiting him from doing so. After being released from prison, he has continued to show up on school grounds despite being dismissed and fined €700 a day if he does not comply with the injunction against him.
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