Enoch Burke: Fines imposed over attendance at Co Westmeath school reach €23,100

Teacher must make sworn statement about complying with court orders by Friday, judge directs

Enoch Burke must provide a sworn statement by 5pm on Friday concerning whether he is complying with court orders restraining his attendance at a school which has served him with a notice of dismissal, the High Court has directed.

The teacher was about 10 minutes late for a 10am listing at the court on Tuesday regarding issues concerning the dispute between him and Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

The issues included a review of the €700 daily fines imposed on him since January 27th over his resumed attendance at the school from January 5th. The total of fines reached €23,100 on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore had risen about 10am for five minutes to give Mr Burke an opportunity to be present. When the judge returned, Mr Burke was still not present and the judge made a number of orders.


He directed Alex White SC, who was in court with Rosemary Mallon BL, for the school, to prepare an affidavit, to be provided to Mr Burke, outlining whether he is complying with the court orders to stay away from the school.

The school should also outline any occasions when he was in breach of the order and the current state of play, including whether Mr Burke had turned up at the school on Monday and whether he sought to enter it, the judge said. He said that Mr Burke has until 5pm on Friday to respond to the school’s affidavit.

The judge also asked Mr White to prepare a submission concerning what costs orders the school wants in relation to its application last month arguing Mr Burke had resumed his contempt of the court orders and Mr Burke’s separate application for an injunction restraining a disciplinary hearing.

He then rose from the bench. Shortly afterwards, Mr Burke entered the courtroom, accompanied by his parents, sister Ammi and one of his brothers.

About 10 minutes later Mr Burke approached the court registrar and had a conversation with her. The family then left the courtroom and, as they did so, Martina Burke, Mr Burke’s mother, made remarks concerning making a “four hour” journey seeking “rights”.

The orders restraining Mr Burke’s attendance at the school, pending a disciplinary process, were made last August and September. The Court of Appeal has heard Mr Burke’s appeal against those orders and its judgment on that is pending.

Prior to the appeal hearing, the school proceeded with a disciplinary hearing concerning Mr Burke on January 19th last which resulted in him being served with a notice of dismissal. The time to appeal that notice has not yet expired.

The disciplinary process was grounded on a report last August by then school principal Niamh McShane. It concerned Mr Burke’s opposition to her direction in May of last year for teachers to address a transitioning pupil by their chosen name and using the pronoun “they” and Mr Burke’s behaviour at a school event last June where he publicly raised issues with Ms McShane about her direction.

Mr Burke was jailed on September 5th for contempt of the orders restraining him attending at the school and freed after 108 days on December 21st without purging his contempt. When he resumed attending at the school from January 5th, after the Christmas break, it again went to court and that resulted in Mr Justice O’Moore’s decision to impose fines.

Separately, preparatory steps are continuing for the full hearing of the proceedings between the school and Mr Burke which concern a range of issues, including whether the conduct of the disciplinary process was in accordance with natural justice and fair procedures.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times