Photo credit: Burke Broadcast

As Burke rots in jail, others go free after breaking court order

As I write this article, school teacher Enoch Burke is currently sitting in a prison cell in Mount Joy, where he has resided for weeks. And it’s unclear when he will be released exactly, if ever.

In fact, the Mayo native has now been moved into the main prisoner population, among rapists, murderers and drug dealers. According to the Sunday World, the prisoner in the cell next to him is an alleged Kinahan cartel gangster charged for alleged involvement in murdering a father of four.

Given the seriousness of the company surrounding Burke, if you didn’t know his story, you’d naturally assume he did something pretty serious to wind up here – right? You’d imagine he got done for terrorism, or bank robbery, or something outrageous like that.

And yet nothing could be further from the truth – this all started because Burke simply refused to use the bizarre gender pronouns of a student at his place of work.

When Burke was asked to refer to a gender “non-binary” student by “they/them” pronouns, he refused – as is his constitutional right – saying that to do so would compromise his religious beliefs as a Christian.

For this he was suspended from his job as a History and German teacher at Wilson’s Hospital School, Co. Westmeath, and a High Court injunction ordered him to stay away from the college. He chose to violate this injunction, going to the college anyway, and was subsequently arrested and jailed in Mount Joy, where he has been kept since.

Some hearing of this story say that Burke is a “political prisoner” and a “prisoner of conscience,” arguing that he is a “victim of compelled speech” whose case has far-reaching implications for freedom of expression in Ireland.

“We need to support him”: Protesters rally behind jailed teacher

Others, however, such as Social Democrats councillor Chris Pender, have said that he deserves his fate for violating the court’s injunction, and that his case has nothing to do with free speech.

“A court order is a court order,” these people say. “We live in a country of laws. If he didn’t want to get jailed, he should have simply followed the injunction.”

How fascinating, then, that while Burke was sitting in his cell, surrounded by child molesters and wife beaters and drug pushers, three other men walked free last week from the very same court despite refusing to purge their contempt after violating a similar injunction.

As reported by a week ago:

“The owners of a disused Dublin building that had been illegally occupied and used by a group calling itself the Revolutionary Housing League as accommodation for the homeless have regained possession of the property.

Four men were brought before the High Court on Monday afternoon following their arrest by members of An Garda Síochana. They had been found on the premises on Monday morning at Parkgate House, Dublin 8.

The men’s presence on the site was in breach of an injunction granted by the Court earlier this month in favour of the property’s owners and a firm that has been engaged to convert the site into 500 apartments and other amenities.

While three of the four – Mr Sean Doyle, Mr Stephen Maher and Mr Stephen Sheridan – had refused to give any undertaking to comply with the court’s order, Mr Justice Mark Heslin declined to commit any of them to Mountjoy prison.

…The judge said he noted that the possession of the building has been regained by the owners, and therefore no purpose would be served if the court was to send anyone to prison until they purged their contempt.”

Now just think of the parallels between this case and Burke’s.

Burke’s injunction was given by the High Court. These men’s injunction was given by the High Court.

Burke’s injunction was to stay away from a location – i.e. his place of work. These men’s injunction was to stay away from a location – i.e. the building they were illegally squatting in.

Burke violated the injunction. These men violated the injunction. And both Burke and these men refused to purge their contempt of court on principle.

And yet today Enoch Burke is languishing in a cell surrounded by the lowest scum of society, and these men are walking free for what effectively amounts to the exact same actions. According to the Irish High Court, Enoch Burke deserves to stay in prison indefinitely, while these men do not, despite both parties committing essentially the exact same offence.

In fact, Burke’s breach was arguably less serious, since he actually worked at the school he went to. He was simply returning to his place of employment – whereas the men who were squatting in the abandoned building seemingly had no connection to it or the owners whatsoever.

While it’s at each judge’s discretion to decide if and when these orders are enforced, the fact that the same court would hand out such radically different punishments is extremely suspect to say the least. Burke’s jailing was not the inevitable consequence of his actions – people have walked away without jail time after being done for contempt of court many times, and they will again in the future. The courts specifically decided to jail him, and not others.

What is this, therefore, but selective enforcement of the law on the part of the wider justice system? What is this, but a gross injustice on the part of the courts? How can anyone look at this situation and stand over it as fair or reasonable?

I don’t know if Enoch Burke is being specifically targeted for his views – I’m not a mind reader and wouldn’t presume to know people’s motives. But I’ll tell you one thing; it certainly is starting to look that way. And cases like this show just how disproportionate and over-the-top Burke’s punishment is.

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