Teacher Enoch Burke has personally served subpoenas on three senior Church of Ireland (CoI) clerics to attend the High Court case brought by the CoI school seeking his dismissal.
The hearing of the dispute between Wilson’s Hospital School and Mr Burke is due to open on Tuesday and is listed to last four days. It will be heard by Mr Justice Alexander Owens, who will be the sixth High Court judge to deal with aspects of the dispute.
The case centres on the conduct of a disciplinary process initiated against Mr Burke last September under which he was placed on paid administrative leave. The process arose from his behaviour at a school event in June last year where he publicly voiced opposition to a request from the then school principal to address a student by their new preferred name and using the pronoun “they”.
When Mr Burke continued to attend at the school, it secured High Court orders in late August and September restraining him from doing so and he was later imprisoned for 108 days for contempt of those orders.
His continuing contempt of the orders following his release from prison just before Christmas has led to fines of €700 daily being imposed by the High Court on him since January 27th.
He was directed to pay €23,800 in relation to those fines by March 23rd and Mr Justice Brian O’Moore, who imposed the fines, said the school could apply to enforce payment over Mr Burke’s assets if he did not do so. The judge said the fines would continue to accrue until Mr Burke purges his contempt.
Mr Burke was served with a notice of dismissal by the school board of management on January 20th but his appeal against that notice, which will be decided by an independent panel, has yet to be heard.
Mr Burke has claimed the disciplinary process was initiated in breach of his rights, including to freedom of religious belief.
In advance of the opening of the hearing, Mr Burke has said in an affidavit that he last week personally, and separately, served subpoenas on three CoI clerics.
The three are Most Rev Patricia Storey, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, who is patron of the school; Rev Canon Alistair Graham, with an address in Mullingar; and Right Rev Ferran Glenfield, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.
Mr Burke said he had served the subpoenas because the case “concerns a religious issue” and, until now, the voices of the clerics “have not been heard” on the matter.
He said the CoI had in June 2020 stated: “The Church of Ireland’s teaching recognises two genders – male and female – and is unchanged.”
“Transgenderism is contrary to scripture and Church of Ireland teaching,” he said, adding he believed it was “very important” that the court heard from the three clerics.