Dismissed schoolteacher Enoch Burke has been warned by the Court of Appeal (CoA) his continued attendance at a Co Westmeath school could jeopardise his bid to overturn various court orders at an appeal this week.
CoA president Mr Justice George Birmingham told Mr Burke It should not be assumed an appeal will be entertained from someone who is in contempt of court.
It should also not be assumed the court can countenance a situation where there is a continued contempt by attendance at Wilson’s Hospital School up to the appeal and that this could continue while judgment is pending.
Where a party is not obeying court orders (restraining attendance at the school) but is seeking orders which they want another party to obey, that is “a very imbalanced situation indeed”, the judge said.
He was addressing Mr Burke, who was accompanied by his sister Ammi, brother Isaac and parents Martina and Seán, during a brief mention of Mr Burke’s appeal, listed for a one-day hearing on Thursday before the three-judge court.
The school was represented by Mark Connaughton SC, with Rosemary Mallon BL.
After Mr Justice Birmingham said the judges did not wish to hear the parties at this stage, the Burkes and the school’s lawyers left the court.
Separately, Mr Burke was removed by gardaí, under protest from himself and members of his family, from a High Court courtroom earlier on Monday after attempting to raise a matter that was not listed before the court. As Martina Burke left the courtroom, she told Mr Justice Brian O’Moore he was “absolutely corrupt” and that God knew about his “wickedness”.
Mr Burke is appealing against various High Court orders made in the long-running dispute between him and the school after a disciplinary process was initiated last August.
That arose from his behaviour at a school event in June when he publicly objected to a direction from the then school principal requesting teachers to refer to a transitioning pupil by their chosen name and using the pronoun “they”.
He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the process and imprisoned in September for 108 days for contempt of court orders restraining him attending at the school in the interim.
He was freed last December without purging his contempt but, after he resumed attending the school on January 5th, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore imposed fines of €700 daily on him, effective from January 27th, until he purges his contempt. In the interim, a disciplinary hearing proceeded, resulting in a decision by the school board of management that he be dismissed.
The fines stood at €12,600 on Monday and the court will review the issue on a date yet to be fixed.
Mr Burke was escorted by gardaí from court last Friday after he sought to raise issues about the school’s application to correct alleged “factual inaccuracies” in its affidavits filed for the proceedings. The inaccuracies concern who was present at a meeting of the school’s board of management where a report by the then principal concerning Mr Burke’s behaviour was presented.
Because the affidavits application was not listed before Mr Justice O’Moore on Friday, he said he could not deal with it.
On Monday, Mr Burke, his sister and his parents Martina and Seán attended Mr Justice O’Moore’s chancery list and Mr Burke sought to raise the issue of the application to correct the affidavits and the judge’s direction, issued last Friday, that the application be dealt with by the relevant judges.
Mr Justice O’Moore told Mr Burke he could not simply hijack the court’s list and that he had not filed the appropriate documentation to make an application to the court.
Mr Burke told the judge he wanted clarification about the directions issued. Speaking over the judge, he accused him of trying to delay matters so that the appeal on Thursday would have to be adjourned.
Mr Justice O’Moore asked gardaí to remove Mr Burke as he continued to protest. He was dragged from the courtroom by his arms by three members of An Garda Síochána, while continuing to grab on to the bench.
Ammi Burke said her brother was being treated differently from the school which, she said, had been allowed to make an application without the necessary documentation. The judge said the school had never shown the level of disrespect Mr Burke had shown to the court and he told Ms Burke if she did not listen to him, she too would be removed.