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‘In all the twists and turns it is easy to forget the Enoch Burke saga is not really about him’

IT Sunday: The Burke case is awkward for the State because it has consistently failed to deny that religious righteousness trumps everybody else’s rights

Hello and welcome to this week’s IT Sunday, a selection of the best Irish Times journalism curated for our subscribers.

There is little doubt which story caught the eye of Irish Times subscribers this week: it was the continuing saga of Enoch Burke.

Four of the top ten most read stories by subscribers this week were about Mr Burke and his return to the gates of the school from where he has been dismissed as a teacher.

In his column Fintan O’Toole notes that amongst all the twists and turns it is easy to forget that the saga is not, really, about Burke.


At its heart, he says, is an issue the State has consistently refused to deal with: the rights of students and parents in the education system.

What makes the Burke case so awkward for the State is that when Burke says that religious righteousness trumps everybody else’s rights he is making a claim that the State has consistently failed to deny.

According to O’Toole, what has been lost in Burke’s self-created drama is a person who is literally nameless – the student he refused to name.

“There’s a simple question: does that student have rights in the education system? Do their parents – who presumably support the student’s transition of their gender identity – have rights?”

In her assessment of the issue, Justine McCarthy makes a similar point, noting that Burke appears far more concerned with his own rights than with those of the student.

Enoch Burke’s “conduct has ridden roughshod over the education rights of students he was employed to teach. In this country, education is a universal entitlement and every child in every classroom ought to be allowed to learn unimpeded . . . The last thing students need is a public melodrama being played out in their school, starring their teacher as the main protagonist,” she writes.

This week also saw Irish films receive an “astonishing, record-shattering” 14 Oscar nominations. Colm Bairéad’s An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) has become the first film in Irish to be nominated for best international picture at the Academy Awards. Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin performed beyond expectations with nine nominations.

As film critic Donald Clarke notes, none of the Irish actors nominated has previously been up for an Oscar. “Farrell may have the best chance of converting his award into a win. The Dubliner looks to be duelling it out with two other big hitters at the top of the best-actor card. Brendan Fraser, a popular leading man of the millennial years, comes back from a career slump to take a nod for his role as a clinically obese teacher in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. Austin Butler, flashily impressive in Elvis, also seems like a plausible winner.”

Another big story this week was the continuing shedding of staff by large tech firms, many of which have substantial workforces in the State.

The context is the souring macroeconomic environment and for many tech firms, a slump in ad revenues or online consumption, writes Ciara O’Brien, who quotes IDA Ireland chief Mary Buckley’s warning that further job losses from Ireland’s multinationals should be expected.

“Ireland has seen the knock-on effects of companies making global decisions to let people go,” she said. “The technology sector is having a tougher time, share prices have been impacted by rising interest rates and all of the global challenges that we are hearing about. We do think there’ll be further losses in the year ahead.”

Staying with economic matters, In Smart Money this week Cliff Taylor looks at the reasons for the gender pay gap in Ireland, estimated nationally at just over 11 per cent in 2019, based on official figures.

“New research from Maynooth University gives important insights emerging from 10 years of data on the Irish jobs market, focusing on graduates in a range of disciplines. While the gender pay gap is small – or non-existent in many cases – immediately after graduation, the clear result of the study is that after eight to 10 years, men have pulled ahead. Why does this happen?”

With Ireland’s housing crisis showing no signs of abating David McWilliams wonders where will the estimated 60,000 new homes reportedly required each year until 2050 (around 1.3 million new houses and apartments) be built? Where will all these new homes be built, what type of homes should they be, and what will those expanded and new streets, towns and cities look like, he asks?

Deciding this is going to lead to a battle between the “tyranny of nostalgia, driven by people who want to preserve everything at all costs, and the tyranny of modernism, driven by those who want to build without limits. This battle plays out every day in the courts, in planning offices, on building sites, in residents’ committees and within the financial system,” writes McWilliams.

As Northern Ireland protocol negotiations continue, fresh research from the Irish Times/ARINS series on Ireland North and South shows how little interaction there is between people living on both sides of the Border, with two-thirds of people in the Republic saying they have no friends in Northern Ireland. However the cross-Border connections are uneven with northerners much more connected to the South than southerners are to the North write academics John Garry and Brendan O’Leary here. While Pat Leahy says the data shows how partition has become embedded in the daily lives of people on the island.

With the Six Nations starting next weekend Gerry Thorney profiles Les Blues, reigning Grand Slam champions and hosts and favourites for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The challenge for France will be to avoid having other teams work them out and to get full value from their Shaun Edwards-devised defence and their kicking game, along with occasional dash of individual brilliance.

And their coach Fabien Galthié is looking forward to the tournament, and particularly the away games against Ireland and England. “These are two exceptional matches, in magnificent stadiums, against the best opponents in the world. Ireland are ahead of us and everyone knows the level and quality of this English team, especially when they play at Twickenham. . . They are sublime adversaries, the coaches are big names, and we, with our weapons, will measure ourselves against them by being able to dominate them and win our Test matches.”

Finally, this week relationships expert Roe McDermott deals with a query from a woman who feels inadequate compared to her boyfriend’s ex-partner. She is model-beautiful with my dream body, and I’ve even started thinking about them in bed together; I’m obsessively jealous of her, thinking she’s so much better than me, that he must be missing her, that I’m his second choice.”

As always, there is much more to enjoy on, including rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, tips for the best restaurants or recipe suggestions in our food section and all the latest in our extensive sport coverage. There are lots more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here.

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