High Court excludes members of Enoch Burke’s family from review of teacher’s imprisonment

Judge says Sean, Martina, Isaac and Ammi Burke cannot attend next week’s hearing due to disruptive behaviour

A High Court judge has excluded several members of Enoch Burke’s family from attending next week’s review of the teacher’s ongoing refusal to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.

At the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey ruled that Sean, Martina, Isaac and Ammi Burke cannot attend because of disruptive behaviour, which, the judge said, involved them shouting and roaring.

The court said it had been prepared to allow the Burkes to attend the hearing if they were prepared to give undertakings not to disrupt next week’s hearing of Enoch Burke’s case.

Otherwise, arrangements would be made so they can view the proceedings via video-link, the judge said.


The judge had invited the Burke family members to make submissions to the court regarding their proposed exclusion.

The court heard that all four, as well as Enoch Burke, strongly objected to their exclusion.

One family member, Isaac Burke, attended the court and argued he, his sister and their parents should be allowed to attend the hearing.

However, following a heated exchange between Isaac Burke and the judge, Mr Burke was physically removed from the courtroom by gardaí for refusing to comply with a direction by the judge to leave the courtroom.

Isaac Burke became animated, and repeatedly demanded the judge withdraw a remark where Mr Justice Sanfey described Mr Burke’s statements to the court as being an “interrogation”.

Mr Justice Sanfey refused to withdraw his remark.

Before his removal from court, Isaac Burke described the exclusion order as being “outrageous”, and a breach of the constitutional right that justice be administered in public.

No detail of each individuals’ alleged disruptive behaviour had been furnished by the judge, Mr Burke said.

He said his family members had not been given proper notice of the decision to exclude them, which he said was wrongfully made in advance of them being allowed to make any submissions.

He questioned the independence of the decision given that it was identical to an order made against them by Mr Justice Edwards in separate proceedings before the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

Isaac Burke took further exception to the judge’s description of members of his family as being “the Burkes”. He said that there are 12 members of his family, that they are “not a collective” and each has individual rights.

Enoch Burke also addressed the court via video-link from Mountjoy Prison.

He claimed to have been dragged from his cell and said he had no advance warning of the application to exclude members of his family from next week’s proceedings.

Mr Burke, who was animated in his submissions until the judge ordered that his microphone be muted, repeatedly criticised Mr Justice Sanfey and other members of the judiciary who have made rulings against him.

He described the judge and his colleagues as being “liars”, having ignored the truth and doing worse things than those who are in prison with him.

Enoch Burke added that the real reason he has spent almost a year behind bars was because he was being punished for his religious beliefs and his opposition to “transgenderism”.

In reply, the judge said that in his 36 years as a lawyer and a judge he had never been called, or heard another judge being called, a liar in a courtroom.

He said members of the Burke family were written to in advance regarding the court’s proposal to exclude them from the proceedings.

This was due to their past behaviour at numerous court hearings.

The judge said that when Enoch Burke’s case was last before him he had to rise five times due to the family’s “tag team” disruption of the court proceedings.

One member of the family would start shouting at the court, resulting in their removal from the court, the judge said, before another member would then start shouting.

The judge said the court is entitled to take steps to maintain good order in the court.

He added that their constitutional rights that justice be administered in public and the rights of members of the public to attend court had been fully taken into account.

He said the court was prepared to allow them to attend if they gave undertakings not to disrupt the proceedings and consider any submissions in support of their attendance.

No such undertakings were provided, so the judge said he was making orders excluding them from next week’s hearing.

Last December, Enoch Burke declined to purge his contempt and to agree to comply with an order to stay away from the school.

He has been in prison for 275 days over what he says was is his refusal to accept a direction from the school to address a student by a different pronoun and to accept “transgenderism”.

He was committed to Mountjoy Prison after the school’s board asked the court to jail him over his deliberate failure to comply with a permanent injunction restraining him from attending the school granted by the court in July.

The board claimed Mr Burke attended at Wilson’s Hospital campus every day when the 2023/24 school year commenced in August.

His presence at the school had caused “severe disruption for staff and students”, the board claimed.

In September the High Court found that Mr Burke had “flagrantly breached” the July orders requiring him to stay away from the school and committed him to prison “indefinitely” until he purges his contempt.

During his first stint behind bars the Evangelical Christian spent over 100 days in Mountjoy between September and December 2022.

Following his suspension from his position at the school in August 2022, Mr Burke was sued by the school over his failure to comply with a court order requiring him to stay away. He was released in December 2022 without purging his contempt.

He resumed attending the school after the holidays, and the High Court imposed a daily fine of €700 on Mr Burke.

The teacher denies the claims against him and says his constitutional rights were breached by the school’s direction that he must refer to a student by a different gender.

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