Jailed teacher Enoch Burke doesn't want 'Christmas gift' of release

Jailed Teacher Enoch Burke Doesn't Want 'Christmas Gift' Of Release
Enoch Burke described the offer by Mr Justice Conor Dignam as "an insult to justice," and suggested he may not participate in any way with the proposed hearing. Photo: Collins Courts
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High Court reporters

Jailed teacher Enoch Burke has told the High Court that he is not interested in a "Christmas gift" of being let out of prison for the festive period.

Mr Burke was offered an opportunity to make submissions before the High Court next week on why he should be released from custody during the holidays when the school at the centre of the row would be temporarily closed.


However, Mr Burke described the offer by Mr Justice Conor Dignam as "an insult to justice," and suggested he may not participate in any way with the proposed hearing.

Mr Burke has spent the last three and a half months behind bars over his continued failure to obey a court order to stay away and not try to teach at Wilson's Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

Transgender issues

He claims that his incarceration arises out of his objection, on religious grounds, to comply with a direction from the school to call a student, who wishes to transition, as a "they" rather than a "he."

Earlier this week Mr Burke's case came for review before Mr Justice Dignam. Mr Burke again refused to purge his contempt or to comply with the terms of an injunction which mirrored the conditions of his paid suspension from the school.


Had he agreed to do so it would have resulted in him obtaining his freedom.

During that hearing Mr Burke pleaded with the court to make an order releasing him from prison without him agreeing to comply with the order to stay away from the school.

Mr Justice Dignam, in light of the fact that Mr Burke was refusing to comply with a valid court order, declined to release him.

On Friday Mr Burke, at the bequest of the judge, returned before the High Court.


The Judge said that given that the school will be closed during the forthcoming holidays the court would consider submissions from the parties whether Mr Burke should be released from Mountjoy during that period.

Those submissions are to be made before the High Court next week, the judge said adding that this was something that had not contemplated when the matter was before him a few days earlier.

No objections

Rosemary Mallon Bl for the school said it had no objections to the court's suggestion.

However, Mr Burke told the judge that he did not want "a Christmas gift" from the court and repeated his claim that the order against him that have resulted in his imprisonment are "manifestly unlawful."


He said that he wants to leave prison and would like nothing more than to be "at home before the fire" with his family for Christmas or singing Christmas carols with his students. He said that he did not want to be allowed out of prison in this manner, under what he described as "an attempt by the court to salvage its conscience by offering mercy or clemency to me."

Mr Burke said that he wants to leave prison with his position that the orders against him are wrong and are in breach of his rights to religious freedom are "wholly and totally vindicated".

To do otherwise, he said, would be dishonest to his beliefs, his rights and to the people of Ireland.

The offer Mr Burke said was "an insult to justice."


He said that he had only been given short notice of the court's direction that he returns before the judge and had complained that he had not been told in advance why the judge wished to address him.

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He also asked if there was some sort of ulterior motive for his.

In reply to Mr Burke Mr Justice Dignam said that Mr Burke was perfectly entitled not to attend court or make any submissions on the court's suggestion regarding his potential release for Christmas, if he did not wish to.

The judge repeated that the only reason the suggestion to release Mr Burke had arisen was due to the impending school holidays.

The matter will be mentioned before the High Court on Wednesday, the last day of the current legal term.

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