Westmeath teacher who refused to use 'they' pronouns suspended for his alleged conduct

A temporary injunction was sought when the teacher in question turned up to work despite his suspension.

Wilson's Hospital School in Westmeath where a teacher was suspended for refusing to use 'they' pronouns
Image: Via YouTube @WilsonsHospitalSchool

A teacher from a Westmeath school, Mr Enoch Burke, who refuses to correctly address Trans students with ‘they’ pronouns, has been temporarily suspended and placed on paid administrative leave due to his alleged conduct.

It is alleged that Mr Burke publicly objected to the use of ‘they’ pronouns in relation to a student who wishes to transition, also refusing to address them by their new name, despite the school’s request to do so.

The school, based in Multyfarnham, celebrated its 260th anniversary last June with a service and a dinner that was attended by clergy, staff, past and present pupils, parents, and board members. At this event, it is claimed that Mr Burke interrupted the service and said that the principal should withdraw the request for him to respect the gender identity of the young Trans student.

This public incident is said to have prompted attendees to walk out of the event.

It is also claimed that he followed the school’s principal, Ms Niamh McShane, after this public interruption and continued to try and engage her on the subject, although she told him they would discuss it at a more appropriate time. Other people are said to have stood between them to bring the loud questioning to an end.

It is claimed that, despite the suspension, the teacher in question recently attended the Wilson’s Hospital School campus, thus prompting a temporary High Court injunction against him while the investigation is ongoing.

The Westmeath teacher described his suspension as “unreasonable, unjust and unlawful”, and told a senior staff member that he was there “to work” and “to attend a meeting” when he turned up on the school grounds.

The school, which is the Church of Ireland’s Diocesan School for Meath and Kildare, sought the injunction fearing that Mr Burke’s refusal to adhere to his suspension could be very disruptive.

Mr Burke has not been sanctioned and no finding has been made against him by the school, RTÉ reports.

The school is represented in court by Rosemary Mallon Bl instructed by Mason Hayes and Curran solicitors, and has said that “it is focusing on the needs and welfare of its students and is affirming its policy in accordance with the 2000 Equal Status Act of not discriminating against any student.”

Mr Burke, who hails from Co Mayo, opposes this, claiming that the school’s request for him to respect the student’s transition is in breach of his constitutional rights. It is alleged that Mr Burke also said that a belief system was being forced upon the students and that Transgenderism goes against the school’s ethos and the teaching of the Church of Ireland.

Legal proceedings are due to recommence in mid-September for the next stage of the process, counsel said.

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