Enoch Burke sues Sunday newspaper over alleged defamatory article

Enoch Burke Sues Sunday Newspaper Over Alleged Defamatory Article
Enoch Burke wants to sue parties, including the Sunday Independent, over an article published in the paper. Photo: Collins
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High Court reporter

Jailed teacher Enoch Burke claims he was defamed in a newspaper article published last weekend.

The High Court heard on Thursday morning that Mr Burke, who has spent over a month in Mountjoy Prison over his failure to stay away from the school where he works, wants to sue parties, including the Sunday Independent, over an article published in the Sunday paper.


Mr Burke, who was suspended in August from his position at Wilson's Hospital School in Co Westmeath, claims he has been the subject of internal disciplinary and High Court proceedings due to his objection to transgender people.

In a fresh development Mr Burke's sister, Ammi Burke, told Mr Justice Brian O'Moore that while the publisher has temporarily removed the allegedly defamatory article from its website, her brother wished to come to court and seek an order under Section 33 of the 2009 Defamation Act.

It is understood that the allegations are denied.

The granting of that order would ensure that the article would not be republished in the future, the court heard.


She said her brother's case has been the subject of many national, local and international media reports, as well as commentary on social media.

Her brother was concerned that what he claims are the damaging and untrue allegations in the report could be repeated, particularly in the international media, and could also prejudice his ongoing case with Wilson's Hospital and damage his reputation.

Social media posts

She added that there had many subsequent defamatory posts on social media about her brother.

She said that there had been correspondence with the publisher of the article, but they were not happy with the response.


She said while the article had been taken down, her brother had no assurance that it would not be republished and had decided to seek an urgent injunction against the newspaper.

She added that the matter was so urgent that her brother should be allowed to come before the court at some stage on Thursday.

Mr Justice O'Moore said he was prepared to allow Mr Burke to come before the court on Friday morning, but rejected the application for Mr Burke to be produced before the court by the prison authorities any earlier.

The judge also said that given that the article had been taken down he was not prepared to make any order against the newspapers without them having notice of Mr Burke's application.


He told Ms Burke that her brother was being accommodated with an early return date to make his application.

As the judge in charge of the High Court's chancery list the judge said that he was now taking charge of the court action between Mr Burke and his employer that had resulted in the teacher's incarceration for contempt of court.

The judge said he was "bemused" by the claim that the article could prejudice the ongoing issues between Mr Burke and the school.

He had not seen the article, said Mr Justice O'Moore, and added that he would not in any way be influenced by any media reporting of the dispute.


The judge said that he also wanted to hear from both the school and Mr Burke on Friday about managing the case with a view to having the matter fully heard before the High Court as soon as was possible.

Disciplinary hearing

Mr Burke, who objects to addressing a student with the pronoun "they" and opposes transgenderism, was committed to prison last month until he agrees to obey the order not to attend at or attempt to teach any classes at Wilson's Hospital School.

The school obtained an order committing Mr Burke, who had been suspended pending the hearing of a disciplinary hearing into allegations of misconduct against him, to prison over his failure to comply with the injunction.

Arising out of his refusal to purge his contempt he has been behind bars at Mountjoy Prison since early September.

Mr Burke has brought an appeal before the Court of Appeal against orders including the granting of the temporary ex-parte injunction against him, and the subsequent decision to keep the injunction in place pending the final hearing of the matter.

He also has appealed against the High Court's dismissal of applications brought by him aimed at setting aside his suspension from the school.

The appeal is due to be mentioned before the Court of Appeal on Friday.

Mr Burke has not appealed the High Court orders committing him to prison for contempt.

Alleged misconduct

Mr Burke, an evangelist and a history and German teacher, was suspended on full pay late last August pending an investigation into alleged misconduct, which he denies.

Arising out of his refusal to stay away from the school its board of management obtained a High Court injunction against him.

His refusal to comply with that order resulted in his incarceration.

Mr Burke claims that the case centres around his opposition to a direction by his employer to address a student at the school, who wishes to transition, by the pronoun 'they' and by a different name is contrary to his Christian beliefs.

He says that the suspension is unlawful, unfair and unreasonable and in breach of his constitutional rights to religion, freedom of expression and conscience.

Mr Burke, who rejects the school’s claims, has brought his own proceedings against the school where he seeks various orders and declarations including a declaration that the disciplinary process against him is unlawful and a breach of his constitutional rights, including his rights to freedom of expression, conscience, and religion.

He also seeks various orders preventing the school from continuing both his paid administrative leave, and the disciplinary process against him.

The school claims the disciplinary process began when Mr Burke publicly voiced his alleged opposition to the school's principal direction to address a student, who wishes to transition, by a different name and by using the pronoun "they" rather than he or she.

It is claimed that Mr Burke interrupted a service and dinner last June attended by clergy, staff, past and present pupils, parents, and board members. Wilson's Hospital says he asked the school's then principal, Niamh McShane, to withdraw the earlier demand regarding the student.

It is also claimed that he said that he could not agree with transgenderism, and said it went against the school's ethos.

The school claims that after he spoke, members of the congregation and students walked out of the school chapel where the service was being conducted.

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After the meal, he is alleged to have approached the principal, and again asked her to withdraw the request regarding the student.

Arising out of Mr Burke's alleged conduct a disciplinary process was commenced, and considered by the board, resulting in a decision to place him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the process.

In a sworn statement to the court Mr Burke said he rejects the claim made by the former school principal Niamh McShane that he questioned her loudly at the function.

Mr Burke said that the former principal's allegations against him are "entirely false".

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