Enoch Burke mounts legal challenge but fails to be released from prison

After being jailed for contempt of court, Enoch Burke sought a legal challenge against the school that suspended him for his conduct.

Teacher Enoch Burke, who mounted a legal challenge against a school after being put in administrative leave.
Image: Via Twitter - @sarahlmull82

On Monday, September 13, a judge adjourned an injunction seeked by secondary school teacher Enoch Burke with the aim of being released from prison. Burke has mounted a legal challenge against the Wilson’s Hospital School’s decision to put him on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary process.

After being jailed for contempt of court, teacher Enoch Burke, who represents himself with the help of his brother, sought a series of injunctions aimed at being released from prison and at halting the school’s board of management from continuing the disciplinary process against him.

The whole dispute with the school started back in May, when the staff, including Burke, was asked by the school’s principal to refer to a Trans student by their chosen name and using they/them pronouns. The request was a result of a meeting that the principal had with the student and their parents. Burke repeatedly refused to do so and in June interrupted a school event to ask the principal to withdraw her request. When she informed him that they would speak about it at a more appropriate time, he continued with his outburst until some other people in attendance had to intervene.

The principal then filed a report against him to the school’s Board of Management, which resulted in Burke being suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary process over his conduct. Despite being on paid administrative leave, he continued to show up, which prompted the Board of Management to seek and obtain an injunction against him.

A judge then ordered his arrest and he was escorted by Gardaí to the High Court in Dublin on September 5, where Justice Michael Quinn issued a ruling sentencing him to an indefinite prison term for contempt of court, as he failed to attend court following a breach of the injunction against him. He was sent to Mountjoy Prison until he purges his contempt.

After being jailed, as part of his legal challenge, Burke sought four injunctions from the court. The first aimed at preventing a disciplinary meeting of the school’s Board of Management from taking place on Wednesday. The second had the goal of restraining the Board from continuing to put him on administrative leave. The third injunction was against the disciplinary process, while the fourth was aimed at preventing the school from suspending him. He also claimed that the school’s decision to put him on administrative leave was “unconstitutional and unlawful”.

Yesterday, Justice Conor Dignam adjourned Burke’s application concerning the administrative leave decision to Wednesday, so that the school would have time to file documents in response. The judge then claimed that all the other injunctions sought by Burke did not need to be determined at this stage, as the disciplinary meeting scheduled for Wednesday had already been cancelled.

Barrister Rosemary Mallon, counsel for the school, informed the court that the meeting was not proceeding because Enoch Burke had made it clear that he did not intend to purge his contempt, which meant that there was “no need for the urgency we were all brought to the court today”. She also said that Burke would be notified in advance of any meeting regarding him.

The matter is thus scheduled to come before the court again on Wednesday at 2pm.

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