Judge hits out at Enoch Burke’s ‘scurrilous’ claims of ‘a stitch up’ by members of the judiciary
7th November 2022
A judge has hit out at Enoch Burke’s use of “strident” language after the schoolteacher likened the Irish courts to those in the former Soviet Union and suggested Irish judges had been involved in “a stitch up” in his case.
Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said Mr Burke had made “scurrilous allegations” against members of the bench during a High Court hearing today.
The judge said one of the “great elements” of the “Christian code” was to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but Mr Burke had come into court using terms such as “stitch up” and “cover up” and claimed that a trial of the action against him would be “an abomination”.
The language used by Mr Burke was “entirely inappropriate”, Mr Justice O’Moore said.
The judge’s comments came following an application from Mr Burke for a stay on the legal action being taken against him by his employer, Wilson’s Hospital School, pending the outcome of his appeal against various High Court orders to the Court of Appeal.
The schoolteacher has been in jail since September 5 for breaching temporary court orders restraining him from attending or attempting to teach students at the boarding school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.
The orders were secured after he kept turning up for work despite being suspended after publicly clashing with management over a request to address a transgender child by a new name and to use the pronoun “they” instead of “he”.
Mr Burke, who is an evangelical Christian, claims that he could not comply with the request due to his religious beliefs.
Since being jailed, he has refused on a number of occasions to purge his contempt.
The case returned to the High Court today where Mr Burke made an application aimed at staying the proceedings – a lawsuit against him by the board of management of the school and his counterclaim against the school – until after the Court of Appeal rules on his appeal.
The appeal is not due to be heard until next February and at a previous hearing Mr Justice O’Moore had raised the prospect of the High Court action being heard before Christmas, although the judge said today that is now unlikely.
Mr Burke is not appealing the order committing him to prison for contempt.
Instead he wants the Court of Appeal to set aside other orders made by four judges, including the temporary injunction restraining him from attending for work, and a subsequent High Court decision to keep the injunction in place pending a final hearing of the matter. He is also appealing against the High Court’s dismissal of an application brought by him aimed at setting aside his suspension.
Setting out his grounds for a stay, he claimed it was important the appeal, or “a trial of the judges” as he called it, proceed first.
One of those judges, Mr Justice Max Barrett, had said his case was “not about transgenderism” but the breach of an interlocutory injunction requiring Mr Burke to stay away from the school.
Mr Burke said another judge, Ms Justice Eileen Roberts, had found that his suspension was not an attack on his religious beliefs.
But the schoolteacher said the judges were wrong and claimed his case was indeed about transgenderism and the freedom of people to express their religious beliefs.
Mr Burke claimed the four judges had “opened the gates and let religious liberty be lost”.
He claimed their decisions had “set about dismantling religious freedom, which is the cornerstone of our laws”, and described their rulings as “shameful and manifestly unlawful”.
Mr Burke said prejudice against religious beliefs was being “normalised”.
He said “the tragedy of this is we now have a stitch up” where the school would be able to rely on “manifestly false comments of High Court judges” during the trial.
Mr Burke said Ireland was not supposed to be a country like North Korea, China or the former Soviet Union, which he said had “a very different view on religious liberty”.
“We have a constitution which puts religious liberty at the heart of our law,” he said.
His application for a stay was opposed by Rosemary Mallon BL, counsel for the school’s board of management.
She said the school wanted the High Court action to proceed “as expeditiously as possible”.
Ms Mallon said that regardless of whether the Court of Appeal sided with Mr Burke or not, there would still need to be a hearing of the action in the High Court as there were reliefs being sought which could not be granted by the Court of Appeal.
She also took issue with Mr Burke’s characterisation of the case.
“This case is not about transgenderism. It simply isn’t. It is about Mr Burke’s decision to refuse to comply with a direction of the board of management,” she said.
“Mr Burke is in jail because he refused to comply with orders of this court,” counsel added.
In response, Mr Burke claimed that were he to prevail in the Court of Appeal, the school’s case against him “would be shot through” and a trial of the action may not be necessary.
Mr Justice O’Moore reserved judgment on the motion.
However, before rising, he said he wished to make a number of points.
The judge said “a sure sign” that any comparison between the Irish courts and those in countries named by Mr Burke was “utterly without merit” was the fact the schoolteacher had been given “the best part of an hour” to make submissions, which included “scurrilous allegations against members of the judiciary”.
Mr Justice O’Moore also hit out at what he described as Mr Burke’s use of “strident language”, saying it was “not to the credit of anyone” to use that sort of language in court.