High Court rejects Enoch Burke's legal challenge against Westmeath school

The High Court judge ruled in favour of the school which suspended Burke for his alleged conduct.

Enoch Burke from Wilson's Hospital School.
Image: Twitter: @DrHaroldNews

The High Court has rejected a legal bid launched by Enoch Burke against his employer Wilson’s Hospital School, following events that stemmed from his refusal of acknowledging a Transgender student’s identity. The Westmeath teacher represented himself before the court in Dublin today, September 14, with Justice Eileen Roberts overseeing proceedings.

The ruling means that Burke must remain in Mountjoy Prison, where he has been held for contempt of court since September 5.

Justice Conor Dignam adjourned an injunction sought by Mr Burke on Monday, September 13, which aimed to secure his release from jail. The man filed a total of four injuctions against Wilson’s Hospital School in order to prevent the Board of Management’s disciplinary process against him and the continuation of his administrative leave.

The judge adjourned the case until today, Wednesday, to allow the school time to file documents in response, and Justice Dignam added that some of Burke’s injunctions did not need to be determined at this stage as the school’s disciplinary meeting had already been cancelled. 

Addressing the court this afternoon, supported by his parents and siblings, Burke claimed that his suspension from the school was unlawful and in breach of his constitutional rights, and for those reasons he should not have been jailed for contempt of court and should be released. He added that he had a “strong” case for the injunctions, referencing his right to freedom of conscience, expression and religious belief.

Enoch Burke was suspended from the aforementioned institution because of his alleged conduct at a school event. The teacher is said to have publicly argued with the principal after she requested that all staff refer to a Trans student by their chosen name and they/them pronouns, as per the request of the child and their parents. Burke, an evangelical christian, was put on paid administrative leave for his outburst, pending a disciplinary process. However, he continued to show up to the school, prompting the Board of Management to seek and obtain an injunction against him.

The teacher failed to attend court following a breach of this injunction, and on September 5, a judge ordered his arrest and Burke was escorted by Gardaí to the High Court in Dublin. It was then that he was sentenced to an indefinite jail term for contempt of court.

Burke can be freed from Mountjoy Prison, where he will now remain, if he purges his contempt, or if a judge orders his release.

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