Judge says there are two possible reasons for Enoch Burke’s continuing contempt
• Yesterday 18:49
Teacher Enoch Burke must pay a fine of almost €24,000, within a week, due to his persistent attendance at the gates of his former school in defiance of a court order that he stay away.
Judge Brian O’Moore said he had come to the view that there were two possible reasons for Mr Burke’s continuing contempt.
‘One is that the fine is too low. The other is that he does not really believe that the fines will ever be enforced,’ he said.
Teacher, Enoch Burke leaving the High Court. Picture Collins Courts© Provided by Extra.ie
Judge O’Moore said the correct option was not to increase the daily fine ‘at least at this stage’ but to crystallise the sums due as of March 1, and to allow the school to take the appropriate steps to enforce the fines.
He said there were clear and obvious steps which could be taken to collect the money from Mr Burke, including the sequestration of Mr Burke’s assets.
‘In any event, as and from 4pm on the 23rd of March, the school is at large as to what steps it wishes to take to enforce the fines, and Mr Burke will be at risk of such measures for as long as it takes for the fines to be paid.’
The judge said the order to stay away from St Wilson’s Hospital – following the teacher’s reaction to a request last summer that he refer to a gender transitioning pupil by the pronoun ‘they’ – had been found to be lawful and constitutional both by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Teacher Enoch Burke must pay a fine of almost €24,000, within a week, due to his persistent attendance at the gates of his former school in defiance of a court order that he stay away. Pic: Collins Courts© Provided by Extra.ie
Mr Burke had been suspended, and has since been dismissed, after publicly challenging the then school principal about the policy, claiming that ‘transgenderism’ clashed with his Christian beliefs.
The school won the court order last September after he continued to try and teach while he was on suspension. A three-month stay in Mountjoy followed his renewed attendance at the Westmeath school, which has since been followed with a €700 daily fine.
The judge said the evidence from the current school principal, Frank Milling, was that Mr Burke’s continued presence at the gates was causing ‘considerable disruption and unease for staff, students, parents and the wider school community’.
‘He goes on to swear that Mr. Burke’s presence “is inimical to the proper functioning of the school”,’ the judge said.
Judge O’Moore acknowledged that Mr Burke had rejected this evidence, but said ‘the fact that the police felt it appropriate to arrest Mr Burke on school premises does not suggest that his presence on the grounds is particularly helpful’.
He said the daily fine would continue to run until the relevant court order was changed or set aside, or until Mr Burke purged his contempt.
The full trial of the issues between Mr Burke and the school will be heard later this month. Pic: Collins Courts© Provided by Extra.ie
‘The parties will be notified, in good time, of the next review date. At that time, the compliance by Mr. Burke with court orders from the 2nd of March on will be reviewed,’ he pledged.
Judge O’Moore also ruled that Mr Burke must pay the legal costs of his own motion to stay court proceedings, and the school’s motion regarding his continued contempt of court.
He noted: ‘Mr Burke submits that he would be “in effect [be required] to pay for the profession and practice of his religion”. This is wrong.
‘Requiring Mr. Burke to pay the costs of a procedural motion which has failed does not penalise him for his religious beliefs.
‘Equally, requiring him to pay the costs of a motion brought because of his egregious disobedience of a Court Order is not a penalty visited upon Mr. Burke on religious grounds. As pointed out in my judgment of the 21st of December 2022, requiring someone not to trespass on private property in no way violates any religious beliefs.’
Last week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal, dismissing Mr Burke’s challenge to the court order won by the school, resulted in scenes of chaos as the Burke family shouted at the judges and had to be dragged away by gardai. His brother, Simeon Burke, was subsequently charged with threatening and abusive behaviour.
The full trial of the issues between Mr Burke and the school will be heard later this month.