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Irish teacher jailed for refusing to acknowledge 'woke' terms

  Secondary school teacher Enoch Burke has been sent to prison for breaching a High Court order. Judge Michael Quinn said he was satisfied B...

 Secondary school teacher Enoch Burke has been sent to prison for breaching a High Court order.

Judge Michael Quinn said he was satisfied Burke was guilty of contempt of court by disobeying an order made by the court last week.

Burke's school, Wilson’s Hospital in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, was granted an injunction preventing Burke from attending or attempting to teach after he was suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.

Burke told the court he could not comply with the order as it would be in violation of his conscience.

The court heard a disciplinary process was commenced after Burke publicly confronted the then principal to voice his opposition to a request to call a student a new name and use the 'they' pronoun.

The judge said his concern was not with the fundamentals of the positions adopted by the parties.

He was concerned only with the breach of the order made by the court.

He said he was satisfied Burke as in contempt of court by breaching the injunction and committed him to Mountjoy Prison until he purges his contempt or until further order of the court.

Burke was offered some time to contemplate the order.

But he said he could not purge his contempt by holding his Christian beliefs in contempt and a short time ago he was led away to a garda van to be taken to Mountjoy.

On Friday, the school was granted an order directing gardaí to arrest Burke and bring him before the High Court after the judge was told Burke was on the premises sitting in an empty classroom.

Burke was arrested this morning at Wilson's Hospital School following an order by the court last Friday.

A garda van left the school shortly after 9am today and Burke was driven straight to the High Court in Dublin. His father Sean and brother Isaac were also present in court.

This afternoon, Burke told the High Court it would be impossible for him to comply with an injunction preventing him from attending or teaching at his school because it would be in violation of his conscience.

Lawyers for Wilson's Hospital School said Burke had been notified on 24 August that he was being suspended on pay, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him.

Barrister Rosemary Mallon said Burke continued to attend the school and the school felt it had no option but to seek an injunction restraining him from attending.

However, Burke again continued to attend for his timetabled hours. She said he knew of the court order, and acknowledged he had received a copy of it.

The school was concerned about the disruption this could cause to students particularly at the start of the academic year.

When Burke continued to attend, the school sought a further order directing gardaí to arrest him and bring him to court for breaching the order.

Ms Mallon said Burke was at the school this morning when he was arrested by gardaí. She said they were not looking for Burke to be punished, they were simply looking for him to comply with the injunction.

Burke, who represented himself in court, said he was a teacher and did not want to go to prison.

He wanted to be in his classroom, he said, and he told the judge he loved his students, and the subjects he taught - German, history, politics and debating.

Burke told Judge Michael Quinn he was in court because he would not call a boy a girl, following a direction by the then principal in May. He said he had asked the principal to withdraw that demand.

He said suspending a teacher was a drastic step and could only be done if there was an allegation of gross misconduct and there was no such allegation against him.

He told the court that if he were to comply with the suspension and obey the court’s order, he would have to accept that sticking by his belief in male and female opened him to a fair charge of gross misconduct.

He said he could not do this. It was against his Christian belief, contrary to scriptures, and contrary to the ethos of the school, the Church of Ireland and the teaching of all major churches, he said.

Burke said suspension was a serious sanction which tarnished his unblemished record in the school and local community.

He said the chairman of the board of management had refused to answer when asked if there was an allegation of gross misconduct against him.

Burke said he asked the then principal to withdraw her request at a chapel service on 21 June commemorating the 260th anniversary of the founder of the school, Andrew Wilson. He said he spoke for two minutes at the end of the service.

He said that he told the principal that if Mr Wilson who set up the school to honour God and serve the public was looking down, would he think this was all hypocrisy.

He said he asked her to withdraw her request because he did not want to sit there and be a hypocrite.

Burke said he then waited patiently for the principal to finish her meal before approaching her and asking her once to withdraw her demand. He claimed he left her alone after that.

Burke said he respected the law and the courts system and as a politics teacher he had taught his students to respect the law.

He said he understood the wisdom and necessity of bowing to judgment other than his own.

But he said when the injustice was so egregious, when what he was being asked to do was so absurd to a sound mind, so alien to common decency and so manifestly wrong to the conscience then he could not accept it and could not bow to the order. He said this would be wrong and in violation of his conscience.

He claimed teachers around this country were being forced to participate in something - they were being forced to use the pronoun 'they' with regard to 'he' or 'she'.

He said they were not just being asked to allow or acknowledge something but condone and endorse it and this was something he would not do.

Burke said for the past four years he had been a teacher, a role model and debating coach.

He said he had a wonderful relationship with students and if he were now to go into school and bow to something he knew to be manifestly and clearly wrong would be a shame and a disgrace on his part and a terrible example in light of their moral and spiritual development.

He said he would not do it; it was impossible; and the order of the court should never have been made.

Burke said his religious beliefs were not misconduct. He held them with joy and pride, he said, and would never deny or betray them or bow to an order that would command him to do so.

Lawyers for the school said all the court was dealing with was the injunction granted last week.

Rosemary Mallon said it was abundantly clear from what he had said that Burke did not intend to comply with the court order and if an order of contempt was not made it was clearly his intention to attend at the school tomorrow.

The injunction was due back before court on Wednesday. And she said Burke could choose to purge his contempt at any stage.

She said he had not yet been disciplined and it was open to him to challenge the disciplinary proceedings in court. Ms Mallon said the school did not want to punish Burke but wanted him to abide by the court orders. She said the school was concerned about the ongoing disturbance to students and with regret sought his committal to prison.

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