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Miriam Lord: The Burke family’s first big outing of the year wasn’t a crowd-puller

Sean, Martina, Ammi and Isaac were beamed in to the courtroom via video link from their hotel, while Enoch was beamed in from Mountjoy Prison

The Burkes’ first big outing of the new year wasn’t a crowd puller.

None of the main players appeared in court in the flesh.

Four were holed up in the lobby of the Ashling Hotel in Dublin and the fifth was in prison. But they still managed to have their say.

Now that the film awards season is in full swing, we are familiar with no-shows from famous names. The missing performers can still beam remotely into the auditorium.


Unfortunately, the Burkes were unable to be present at Monday morning’s hearing in the Court of Appeal.

However, all was not lost as they were beamed into court number 16 via an occasionally dodgy video link.

The three judges sat to consider an application by Gsoc for recordings of a previous hearing, when a number of Burkes had to be forcibly carted out of a courtroom for noisily acting up.

Young Enoch, who has been banged up for a total of 283 days for refusing to comply with a court order directing him to stay away from the Westmeath school where he used to teach, was objecting to this application.

But the Ashling Four were barred from the hearing due to what Judge John Edwards called their “track record” when it comes to disruptive court behaviour, while Enoch the fifth was confined to a cubicle studio in Mountjoy for the same reason.

Nothing is ever straightforward with the Burkes when it comes to legal hearings, due to an unfortunate tendency to spontaneously combust whenever they hear something they don’t agree with.

So the scheduled Gsoc application – “the substantive matter” – couldn’t happen until an application by the indignantly video-linked Burkes to have their courtroom exclusion overturned was heard first.

Judge Edwards, sitting with judges Tara Burns and Patrick McCarthy, came across as a very patient man.

The first of the Burkes to appear on-screen was Enoch, speaking from what looked like a triangular shaped nook somewhere in Mountjoy.

An optimistic “silence” was printed on a sheet of A4 paper stuck to the door behind him.

He laid out his case at considerable length. Earnest and articulate and completely rejecting any suggestions from the bench that he or his family have a track record of acting the maggot in various courtrooms.

“The interrupting ... utterly unjustified, quite outrageous and not to be tolerated,” murmured Edwards. “Talking across people ... being argumentative ... breaches of decorum like shouting down the judge ...”

Enoch looked pained.

“Judge, you define me as somebody I am not. I do not disrupt proceedings.”

He rejected the allegations. “Utterly”.

“My family are law-abiding citizens,” he said, while mother Martina, father Sean, sister Ammi and brother Isaac were cooling their heels down the road in the plush warmth of the Ashling Hotel’s elegant lobby, in a nice quiet spot behind reception.

“I respect law and order, I’ve been raised to do so,” said the man in jail for defying a court order.

“It is my right to have them here with me in court,” said the man speaking from a prison in Phibsborough.

Anyway, any chance he might give an undertaking to behave in court if allowed to return, wonder the judge?

It didn’t sound like it.

“We are not satisfied we got sufficient commitment from you,” said Judge Edwards, who did most of the talking, leaving Enoch to his lonely Northside nook.

Next up on the video link was Sean Burke, patriarch of Ireland’s most famous family of evangelical Christians. Although on past performance, evan-YELL-ical also fits the bill.

“We are prepared to entertain your application to let you in,” smiled the judge. But only if he agreed not to disrupt proceedings.

Sean Burke didn’t sound impressed.

“Well,” he told their judgeships in his soft Mayo accent, “what you have done is put the cart before the horse ...”

He was asked a number of times if he would give a commitment not to act up.

“I give you one last chance: yes or no?”

Good luck with that one.

Next up was matriarch Martina. She was given the same option: agree not to interrupt the court and be allowed in.

Speaking from a pink striped velvet sofa, she accused the court of cruelty towards her son Enoch, a young man without any legal advice who has been given no help by anyone and is now incarcerated in Mountjoy.

What about agreeing not to be disruptive?

Martina Burke said she never entered any courtroom intending to disrupt proceedings. They only ask questions when they feel their constitutional rights are being denied.

Then she launched into a rant about how Leo Varadkar appointed former attorney general Marie Whelan to the Court of Appeal, “and you know that was cronyism,” she fumed at Judge Edwards.

“Mrs Burke! Mrs Burke! Mrs Burke!” he cried, in a futile attempt to stop the torrent of words.

“We’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.”

And her mic was muted.

Next up was Isaac.

“I have been grievously slandered here by you, Judge Edwards,” he protested, waving a legal document as he insisted he did not “burst” into the courtroom during a previous sitting.

“Well, perhaps that word was a bit ‘hyperbolic’,” conceded the judge, but it didn’t alter that fact that his actions forced a court to rise.

“I have rights ... I would like a retraction!”

The Burkes understand hyperbole.

The judge retracted the word “burst”.

And on it went.

Ammi Burke, a qualified solicitor, took the baton from her brother and ran with it.

“You have no right to make a false statement about Isaac Burke,” she quivered. Judge McCarthy raised his head and closed his eyes. Judge Burns remained expressionless.

Ammi’s link went mute.

“Somebody has turned off your sound and it isn’t the court,” sighed Judge Edwards.

The screen froze.

“If you are listening to us, the link has frozen and you are not being terminated by the court,” soothed Edwards, asking the registrar if it might be an idea to try switching it off and on again.

“Ms Burke, can you hear us now?”

“I believe I was cut off.”

“No, you weren’t.”

Her mother budged up against her on the pink sofa so half her face was in the frame. There was a lovely big chandelier overhead and mirrored panelling on the walls.

Ammi argued that the court was breaching the law by restricting members of the public from attending.

“It was four named persons,” countered the judge.

“Well, I am a member of the public,” she shot back, moving on to talk about “a cover-up this morning”.

She was told her she would be let back in if she gave “an assurance” not to interrupt. She questioned the judge’s jurisdiction in the matter.

“Do I take that as a no?”

Nearly an hour and a half later, with the links to the Ashling Four all muted and the exclusion order still in place, the “substantive” hearing began. All that remained was a thumbnail shot of Enoch in his Mountjoy cubicle, ready to make his submission, looking like a fresh-faced seminarian practising in a small confessional.

The Ashling Four quickly left the hotel and legged it up to Parkgate Street where they held a protest outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, standing on the kerb and holding up placards for passing motorists.

It was bitterly cold. They didn’t seem to notice. Ammi and her mother recorded a short video for use on social media.

Just another day on the Burke family roadshow.

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